Loading up the box


Feb 3, 2008
With Starfire, the ticket used to say “Fill out alarm second source.” Is “loading up the box” the new term on the screen with FireCAD?
May 11, 2021
Two different things:

“Fill out alarm Second Source” is used to ensure 3 engines, 2 ladders and a battalion are assigned. Example: 1 engine, 1 ladder and 1 battalion chief are responding to an automatic fire alarm. If dispatch gets a second call on it and someone reports an odor of smoke in the building, then dispatch fills out the rest of the assignment to bring it up to 3E/2L/1BC.

”Loading the box” is when dispatch is getting multiple calls for a fire at the same location. 3 engines, 2 ladders and 1 battalion may be on the way, but now dispatch adds the 4th due engine, rescue and squad. This is a case by case situation and is decided on by what dispatch refers to as “due to the quantity & quality of calls, we’re loading the box”.

Fill out alarm Second Source ensures 3E/2L/1BC are assigned.
Loading the box gets 4E/2L/1BC/ Rescue & Squad.

As I always state, it’s not a perfect world, and if a 3rd ladder is in the area they may get assigned.


Active member
Aug 27, 2013
Couple different terms.
extra 1 & 1 is mostly spot on

let’s not forget transmitting the box. When a box goes out, whether a single unit response, 5-7 signal or class 3 that doesn’t get the 3&2, when the unit gets on scene can request the box to be transmitted which would bring the 3&2

when the box gets loaded (10-30)
It’s due to numerous calls/quality call/reports of people trapped.
When loaded the response is
4E, 3L (3rd FAST)
2 BC
And the normally assigned Rescue & Squad if available

10-75 gets the same response and the nearest available rescue and squad
Plus the division Chief and a RAC unit

All Hands means 3 (or 2 engines and a squad) & 2 are operating
All Hands with the incident doubtful gets the remainder of the assignment(fast truck, spec units etc)
Apr 8, 2007
To answer the original question, no, FireCAD doesn't print anything about "Loading up the box". MDTs in the rigs still look the same. Screens for the dispatchers are much different than the StarFire years (and arguably nicer) but no "load box" button or text other than the T-30 on the SEP. Still a verbal thing.


Active member
Jun 27, 2017
I believe that the "second source" tactic was an outgrowth of the adaptive response concept of the late 1960's. The name of the game was increasing the availability of companies for the NEXT incoming alarm. Thus, "second source" was used to determine the probability that the third due engine would go to work on the initial alarm.


Jul 25, 2010
On the lighter side..working a night tour..28 has the meal and is preparing an Italian feast. Box comes in…signal 5…engine only. Before getting on the rig, 28’s chef yells “stir the sauce”. It’s misheard and guys start yelling “second source!”. Asses and elbows, guys sliding the pole, donning their gear. The chef says “I said stir the effing sauce!!”. Deep breaths and a lot of laughs. Stay safe.


Aug 8, 2009
Several initiatives (aka gimmicks) were tried during the late 1960s and 1970s to address the skyrocketing increase in alarms and fires during the so-called "War Years". NYC was experiencing continual budget problems. Manpower squads responded in vans and trucks in busy battalions. An effort was made to create 2nd sections for busy engines, trucks and battalions. This was a Band-Aid because so many companies were busy. Most assignments were 2&2 plus chief - but it was increasingly difficult to maintain this response. 2nd sections then were disbanded and often formed new fire companies.

Adaptive Response was tried in 1970 to reduce assignments (2 E-1L -1BC) during peak response time period to make more units theoretically available more quickly. Tactical Control Units (engine and truck), a new division (the 17th w/new battalions) was created. Discretionary Response Boxes (DRBs) were tried. A 60th Battalion for firefighting only rotated into busy battalions. Two "Tin House" portable firehouses (both never changed locations) were built. - All in the era of pulled fire alarm boxes which enabled countless false alarms ("10-92s"). It was infrequent to get a "second source" unless NYPD confirmed, a public building with several occupant phone calls or a large fire with multiple boxes were pulled.

1970s - ERS alarm boxes arrived - with a no response or single engine response if no contact.

Cell phones finally enabled dispatchers to more frequently have a "2nd source" and adjust alarm assignments appropriately.


Well-known member
Mar 3, 2007
Also, during the Adaptive Response time period many truck companies operated with extra men in order to staff the two man "Above Fire Team" (an attempt to show that one truck company could do the work of two, except for those times when there was only one guy as the Above Fire Team). Fun and Games/smoke and mirrors!

Grogan Fire Photo

Active member
Oct 6, 2011
The amount of people that call for some things these days is crazy. We sometimes get two or three calls just telling us there is a fire to have companies make it a 10-18 for 10-40 Code 2. Must be every person in the affected family calling and sometimes the same person hangs up the phone and dials back right away thinking we will get there faster.