5-5-5-5 Bell Ceremony
Striking the Four Fives
The fire service is rich with ceremony, custom, and tradition. The custom of rendering final honors has its origins in the fire department of the city of New York, where many years ago, long before the advent of radios or pagers, fire alarms and daily announcements were dispatched from central headquarters to outlying firehouses by a system of bell commands and telegraph.
Each different type of alarm or announcement would have its own number and series of bell strikes. When a firefighter died in the line of duty or when some important official or personage died, headquarters would transmit five bell strikes repeated in four series', with a slight pause between each series, followed by the announcement. This was done as long ago as 1865 in the New Your City Fire Department to inform the rank and file of the death of Abraham Lincoln.
The custom has continued on to the present day and this form of rendering final honors to departed comrades is known in the fire service as "STRIKING THE FOUR FIVES".