Should Hudson Valley Firehouses Finally Lose the Outdated Siren?
Some local fire departments are using outdated technology from the 1950s that's only purpose seems to be annoying local residents.
Of course, we're talking about the firehouse siren. Perhaps you live in a community where the fire department still insists on blaring their air raid horn for every fire call. You know just how jarring it can be when the siren starts screaming in the middle of the night or when you're trying to have a quiet moment at home. But did you ever stop to wonder why the siren is even going off at all?
Before the days of pagers, 911, scanners, the internet, texting and smartphones the only way to alert first responders was to use an air raid siren. The siren was used for all sorts of alerts in the community including natural disasters, fires and, of course, air raids. Residents knew that the length of the siren meant different things. Today, we just hear the siren and assume there's a fire.
And that may be the biggest argument to eliminate the firehouse siren.
Because we've become immune to the sirens, if there were to be an actual natural disaster or emergency we would probably just ignore the alert. The sirens are there for an important purpose. They're a backup alert for communities. But because we hear them constantly, they've become pretty much useless in an actual disaster.
In trying to find out why fire departments still insist on using sirens I combed through hundreds of comments on various community message boards from actual first responders. What struck me was that most first responders agree that the sirens are basically useless. A majority of fire department personnel say they should be done away with and only used as a last resort.
Those who argue to keep the sirens blaring all day and night say that it's important for the community to know that they are responding to 911 calls. Basically, the sirens are in place as a way to literally "toot their own horn" for getting up in the middle of the night to respond to an emergency. While I agree that the public should always be reminded of how dedicated and brave our first responders are, this seems like a ridiculous way to do it.
Another argument for keeping the sirens is because it supposedly alerts people that fire trucks will soon be on the road. The only problem with that is that fire trucks already have their own sirens that very clearly alert people to their presence.
Communities across the country have already been ditching the firehouse siren since the 1990s. Since then, thousands of fire departments are now silent and there hasn't been any reported evidence that the lack of sirens has slowed down response time at all. If anything, the use of modern technology has increased responsiveness.
I am a huge supporter of our local fire departments. I believe that they are among the bravest and most vital parts of our community. It's important that we support them and give them all the resources they need. But when even their own members admit that the firehouse siren has little purpose, it may be time to turn them off.
Of course, we should keep the sirens functioning in the very rare chance that the internet, cell service and radio communications all go down at once. Testing them once a week at a designated time also seems like a reasonable way to make sure they're ready to go. But many people agree that the days of blaring the horn for every 911 call should probably come to an end.
So what do you think? Is it time to stop overusing those outdated fire sirens in the Hudson Valley? We'd love to hear what you think. You can share your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.