Fire Callbox

Keeping connected

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Permanent device used to notify the fire department of a fire. Prior to widespread installation of telephones, they were the primary way to summon the FDNY.


Callbox has evolved into different features throughout the years, with red plumage defining a defining feature; FDNY and NYPD call buttons, and perforated stainless steel plate. Many older examples feature cast–iron base, shaft, and crown; newer examples feature rectangular bent steel monolith. H 5’-0”—6’-2” (1.52m—1.83m); L 1’-0” (0.30m); W 1’-0” (0.30m).


  • I. v. machina
    Mechanical Box
    Physical pull connected to a spring-wound mechanism which opens and closes an electrical circuit.
  • I. v. pello
    Emergency Reporting System
    Newer boxes with push-buttons for FDNY and NYPD, with voice functionality. Installed where high false alarms were experienced.


Dense neighborhoods at street corners.


Throughout the Five Boroughs.

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Since New York City was founded in 1624, the FDNY has evolved from a series of street gangs to the most professional firefighting department in America starting in 1648 when the first fire ordinance was adopted. In response to growing and denser population, the FDNY installed call boxes throughout the city in order to facilitate faster call response.

Climate impacts

The system is powered from a central plant (much like landline telephones) which reduces generating emissions through economies of scale. It isn’t clear how long the system will be maintained, due to high maintenance costs and the ubiquity of mobile phones. However during the 2003 blackout, the callboxes were fully operational, and there is resistance to removal from the City Council and community groups.

Further reading

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