Manhattan's Street Fire Alarm Boxes Fail for Hours

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014  |  Updated 11:00 PM EDT
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Manhattan's Street Fire Alarm Boxes Fail

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Hundreds of street fire alarm boxes went out of service for several hours in Manhattan Tuesday, officials said. 

Most of the 1,400 call boxes in Manhattan that were knocked offline Tuesday evening were restored by late night. Verizon was working to restore the rest. 

Authorities urged New Yorkers who are deaf or hard of hearing who need help in an emergency to use so-called "9-1-1 tapping protocol" where they dial 911, wait four seconds and then tap on the mouthpiece once for police and twice for fire or medical.

Mayors have sought to phase out the alarm boxes for years, especially as cell phones have become so common.

The FDNY pushed to get rid of them in 2010, saying they cost millions to maintain and generate mostly false alarm calls.

In 2009, 85 percent of the 12,931 calls from alarm boxes were false alarms, according to FDNY. And of the FDNY's 26,666 calls reporting structural fires that year, 140 -- less than 1 percent -- came from an alarm box.

Mayor Giuliani also tried to get rid of them in the 1990s, but a judge stopped the move after a group of hearing-impaired people filed a lawsuit.

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