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History of Emergency Communications in Richmond, Virginia

Information and photos provided by Bonnie Hoskin, who retired from the city of Richmond with 30 years of service in 2002.

1971 units
An electronic status in use in 1971 shows available police and fire units.

Photo by Richmond Newspapers

1742   Richmond is incorporated as a town by an act of the Virginia Assembly. The only means of “emergency communications” was a bell located at the Market House at 17th and Main streets that was rung when a fire was discovered.

1870   The city’s first electric “Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph System” was installed.

1871   The Department of Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph was created.

1893   Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph moved into the new city hall at 10th and Broad streets. A Police Patrol System was established at Second Police Station under the care of the Fire Alarm Department.

1906   The Police Patrol System was moved to City Hall.

1919   A charter amendment established the Department of Public Safety to include the Police and Fire departments, the Bureau of Fire and Alarm and Police Telegraph, Building Inspections and Weights and Measures.

1924   Bureau of Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph moved into its new quarters at Monroe Park.

1934   The police broadcasting system was installed at Second Station at Smith and Marshalls streets with one patrolman and two civilian radio operators

1937   The police radio station, WPHF, was moved from Second Station to Police Headquarters at City Hall Annex, 11th and Broad streets.

1939   Two-way radio equipment was installed in all of the police cars.

1940   Mobile radios, tuned to the police band frequency, were installed in the Fire Bureau cars.

1945   The first two-way radio was installed in the fire pumper at Engine Co. 19.

1949-50   The radio system moved from low band (30-40 Mc) to high band (150-160 Mc) frequencies. The Division of Communications and Records was established.

1954   Pneumatic tubes were installed at police headquarters to send messages more quickly from the complaint desk to the radio dispatcher

1955-56   A three-way radio system was installed in the police bureau, which allowed officers in police cars to talk by radio to other police cars

1957-58   The Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph was placed under the Bureau of Fire.

1958   A radio tower erected in Monroe Park enabled the Fire Bureau to have its own radio system.

harris holding telephone In 1996, walking patrol offficers, including Robert Armstrong, pictured here, began using walkie-talkie radios to communicate with dispatchers. Photo by Richmond Newspapers
harris holding telephoneIn 1990, E.C. Harris displays the newly installed unrecorded telephone line to receive anonymous tips on illegal drug activities, Photo by Richmond Newspapers

Contact Information:

Department of Emergency Communications
City of Richmond
Emergency: 911
Non-Emergency or to file a Police Report: (804) 646-5100
News media contact:
Karen L. Gill
804-646-8234 (office)
804-938-0776 (mobile)

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