County-Wide Numbering System

Fourteen fire departments in St. Joseph County shared the same radio frequency for dispatch and fireground, 154.250 mHz (the airport, South Bend and Mishawaka have their own systems; Notre Dame uses its own and South Bend's). Most departments also had their own dispatch systems (Clay had long dispatched German and Harris). The congestion was aggravated because Berrien County, Michigan, which borders parts of St. Joseph County, used the same frequency for fire dispatch.

It was pretty clear to many of us in 1980 that there was a problem. Some departments had adopted two-digit numbers, with the first identifying the department (for example, Harris Township's 40-series), Penn North adopted letters of the alphabet, but the chief was "101" everywhere. There was also no system to it: Harris 42 was a tanker, but Clay 2 was an engine. When I moved away from the area, it was still a problem -- and growing worse, as both counties became more populated.

In the mid 80's, Clay began handling dispatch for most of the county departments. In the late 90's, the departments arranged a county-wide numbering plan. To ease radio congestion, additional frequencies for fireground and command were assigned (and Berrien County's south dispatch tower also changed). The present system identifies the department, type of apparatus, and department number.
The first one or two digits identify the department:

The second-last digit identifies the type of apparatus: The last number is the department's identifier.
Thanks to Captain Brian Kazmierzak of Clay for some of the information here.

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