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The House Watch
     
The Roman emperor Augustus is credited with instituting a corps of fire-fighting vigiles ("watchmen") in 24 BC. Regulations for checking and preventing fires were developed. In the preindustrial era most cities had watchmen who sounded an alarm at signs of fire.        

With the invention of the telegraph alarm system the watchman's role changed. He was now in the fire house and responsible for announcing the box number transmitted and which apparatus would respond. As well as keep an accurate log of station activities.     Today the watchman is still used by some departments, and their duties haven't really changed.

Here is the Columbus Fire SOP on the watchman.   
 
In each Division fire station, a daily detail of one member shall be assigned each day as station watchman under the direction and general supervision of the officer in charge. As a rule, the duties of watchman will be rotated equally between the firefighters assigned to all engine, ladder and rescue companies at a given station.

Division Officers, under normal circumstances, shall not perform station watchman duties.  

In addition to the regularly assigned watchman, a second station member shall be designated as alternate or "back up" watchman. Any time the regularly scheduled watchman is unavailable the "back up" watchman will assume the watch duties.   

In those stations where more than one company is assigned, the member designated as alternate watchman shall be one who is assigned to a company other than that to which the regular watchman is assigned. In large, multi-company stations it may be necessary to designate a second back-up watchman, in order to assure that proper station watch coverage is provided.        

In stations where medic transport units are assigned, members of such companies shall perform and maintain an effective station watchman function during those times that other regularly assigned companies are out of quarters and unavailable for such duties.

Normally, medic personnel will not be specifically designated as regular or alternate watchman.   

Members detailed to perform the duties of station watchman shall be responsible for efficiently discharging all of the duties and activities associated with this assignment, and shall not allow themselves to be placed in a position where they might be unable to do so. These duties include - but are not limited to - being immediately available to people visiting the station and answering of fire Division telephones in the officially prescribed manner.           

If it becomes necessary for the station watchman to be away from or out of direct sight of the immediate vicinity of the watch area for more than just a moment or two, he or she shall first secure the permission of the officer in charge, and should also attempt to get the alternate watchman or some other station member to provide coverage for the duration of this absence.

Station personnel assigned to watch duties shall be permitted to sleep in officially designated location any time after 2200 hours.

They shall wear appropriate clothing, suitable to receive visitors who may have reason to enter the fire station during the night hours.

Station watchmen shall not occupy beds or sleep anywhere in the station after the 0700 hours "wake-up" announcement.

Station watchmen shall be held strictly accountable for ensuring that Division base station radios or monitors are never turned off or unplugged.

They shall not permit the volume control to be turned down or the speakers to be blocked or positioned in such a way as to prevent the clearly audible reception of all pertinent transmissions.

Members on watch shall remain constantly alert to any communications which may be relevant to operations at their station.When answering Division telephones, station watchmen shall relay all information of an urgent or emergency nature to the proper officer or member(s) immediately upon receipt thereof. Information of a general or non-emergency nature shall be either relayed to the proper officer or member or entered accurately in the company journal as conditions warrant.

The watchman shall properly record all pertinent information received for later entry in the company log. This shall include all public address system, telephone, radio or other messages; markings of apparatus in or out of quarters; information relevant to the respective stations concerning streets closed, blocked, or opened and hydrants out of service, abandoned, or back in service; sprinkler or standpipe systems out of service or returned to service; training activities; visitors to the station and their business, including Division members, civilians or others.

The watchman shall notify the Officer in Charge of the station of any personnel in quarters for the purpose of working on any portion of the station or any equipment or apparatus therein.. He/she shall also properly record names, purpose of visits, times of arrival and departure, material delivered or picked up, and work completed.

The watchman shall bring to the attention of the Officer in Charge any occurrence of an important or unusual nature. This shall include such things as orders and other information received by him/her, messenger alarms, injuries occurring on station property, visitors to the station, any change in the status of apparatus or equipment, or any other event or situation that may affect the smooth and efficient operation of the station.

The watchman shall be responsible for the general cleanliness and order of the watch area and shall be responsible for seeing that all communications, bulletins, and various other items received during his tour as watchman are properly processed, recorded, or otherwise dealt with according to existing policies and instructions from his superiors.

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