In the early years of the fire company, Oldwick was a small isolated town and a bell was used to summon the firemen. The bell was loaned to Oldwick by Liberty Corner which had recently been electrified. The bell was given to a local farm where it served as a dinner bell for many years. It was returned to Liberty Corner in time for their centennial celebration at the urging of Mrs. St George.
In 1939 a two horsepower siren was installed atop the James Street firehouse with power ‘strung’ from the Hildebrant Cider Mill, the only source of three phase power in the town. The siren was manually sounded and had the following code: 1 long- drill, meeting, Saturday noon, 1 long repeated- in town fire, 2- fire in Fairmont, Pottersville section, 3- fire in Mountainville, Bissell section, 4- fire in Whitehouse, Lamington section.
In 1948 two WWII surplus walkie talkies were purchased.
In 1950, due to an ice storm that had power out in Oldwick for over a week, the membership decided to install an air horn. It is rumored that the horns, still in use today, are from a railroad locomotive. An air compressor was rented for the test.
A telephone switchboard was located on Main Street and wires were strung to allow the operator to sound the horn remotely. The responding fireman would man the truck at the firehouse and then would need to stop on Main Street switchboard to ask where the fire was. Eventually a telephone was installed in the firehouse and the responding firemen would talk to the switchboard prior to leaving the firehouse. If possible the operator would keep the caller on the line and the responding firemen would talk to the caller on the party line.
In 1960 the switchboard became obsolete with the invention of the dial tone. Mrs. Morse ran a nursing home on Miller Avenue and agreed to accept the responsibility of taking emergency calls as someone was always at the nursing home. Wires were strung to Mrs. Morse’ house and this arrangement was in place until 1975. In 1975, a double cable was hung between Oldwick and Far Hills for use of a dispatch answering service.
In 1977 the Hunterdon County dispatch system began to dispatch Oldwick.
Originally, to become a member of the Oldwick Fire Company, one needed to reside or work within hearing distance of the bell/siren/horn. This limited membership to Oldwick residents and north to Hill and Dale Rd and south to Flemley Road. In 1970, a phone chain was initiated as some members could not always hear the horn.
In 1971 ‘plectrons’, a radio based control panel were purchased and given to members. This allowed members to directly hear calls from their home. It also allowed membership to a wider area. However, in the early days, the plectrons did not always work, and never worked well at some locations due to hills.
In the 1980s pagers were introduced that allowed members to be alerted directly. The early pagers were fraught with complications and at one time did not function for over 3 months. The horn was a key component in alerting members.
Current pagers are alerted via Hunterdon Communications and members are also alerted via phone text messaging. The ‘I AM RESPONDING’ system allows members to respond over their phone with an estimated time of arrival at the firehouse. These responses are displayed on a screen in the engine bay and allows responding crews to determine the number of responding members prior to leaving the station.
It should be noted that new technologies are welcomed by the membership but there have been numerous instances where the ‘high tech’ communication devices did not work and members responded via the air horn.