Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Technology Secrets of the Congressional Clock

On June 11, as part of Healthcare IT Advocacy Day in Washington DC, I visited several offices on Capital Hill (Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Jim McGovern and Barney Frank) to discuss the importance of ePrescribing, data standards, and support of incentives for EHR adoption.

While wandering through the House (Cannon, Longworth, Rayburn) and Senate (Russell, Dirksen, Hart) buildings, I noticed that the clocks in all the offices had various lights and buzzers. I asked Congressional staffers to explain the secret code behind these signals and no one really knew.

After scouring the web for hours to no avail (Google has no information on Congressional clocks), one of our Advocacy team members found the following information buried on page 35 of an unindexed PDF on the Senate website.

1 long ring followed by a pause and then 3 rings and 3 lights on the left
Start or continuation of a notice or short quorum call in the Committee of the Whole that will be vacated if and when 100 Members appear on the floor. Bells are repeated every five minutes unless the call is vacated or the call is converted into a regular quorum call.

1 long ring and extinguishing of 3 lights on the left
Short or notice quorum call vacated.

2 rings and 2 lights on the left
15 minute recorded vote, yea-and-nay vote or automatic rollcall vote by electronic device. The bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring.

2 rings and 2 lights on the left followed by a pause and then 2 more rings
Automatic rollcall vote or yea-and-nay vote taken by a call of the roll in the House. The bells are repeated when the Clerk reaches the R’s in the first call of the roll.

2 rings followed by a pause and then 5 rings
First vote on clustered votes. Two bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring. The first vote will take 15 minutes with successive votes at intervals of not less than five minutes. Each successive vote is signaled by five rings.

3 rings and 3 lights on the left
15 minute quorum call in either the House or in the Committee of the Whole by electronic device. The bells are repeated five minutes after the first ring.

3 rings followed by a pause and then 3 more rings
15 minute quorum call by a call of the roll. The bells are repeated when the Clerk reaches the R’s in the first call of the roll.

3 rings followed by a pause and then 5 more rings
Quorum call in the Committee of the Whole that may be followed immediately by a five-minute recorded vote.

4 rings and 4 lights on the left
Adjournment of the House.

5 rings and 5 lights on the left
Any five-minute vote.

6 rings and 6 lights on the left
Recess of the House.

12 rings at 2-second intervals with 6 lights on the left
Civil Defense Warning.

The 7th light
indicates that the House is in session.

Thus, the picture above indicates that the House is in session (red light), but in recess (6 lights).

Now you know the secrets of the Congressional clock and how our elected officials know when to run from their offices to the House and Senate floors.

7 comments:

Matthew said...

Given some issues we had with properly documenting incision time (conflicting times from multiple people) I was thinking of what it would take to develop a smart wall clock for the operating room that would interface with our surgery system. The clock would use voice recognition or something for the surgeon to call out .

This is cool, but a little hard to memorize all the different combination's.

Topher said...

This shows how quickly arcane knowledge is lost once superseded by newer technology.

When I was a Congressional Page, decades ago, everyone was schooled in the bells and lights.

John said...

Suddenly I hear Ernestine the Operating saying "One Ringy-Dingy...two ringy-dingy.. (snort-snort)...three ringy-dingy!"

Oh, wait - that must be what they do on the Congressional switchboard.

Never mind.

:o) JB

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