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Are fire sirens needed ?

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  • Are fire sirens needed ?

    Pagers have been in use for quite a while now and in a lot of towns the sirens still wail for a volunteer response. Are they still worth the annoyance and aggravation of the unfortunates who have to live near them?

  • #2
    Yes, they are needed. This is a HUGE debate in my area right now. A few depts, @3-4 including mine, have shut off their sirens. We, along w/ the others, are now debating to turn them back on. Some other depts still do not have pagers for all memebers and have members missing calls now. I have missed the first out because I was out getting the mail or talking w/ a neighbor and didn't hear the pager, only to realize later we had a call. The siren was there when people moved in. It is just my opinion, but you shouldn't have moved next to a fire station if you didn't want to hear a siren. Sorry so long but fresh out of a meeting about this.

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    • #3
      It is true that pagers are the norm these days for volunteer fire departments. I personally do not know of any departments that still use the outdoor siren to alert firefighters. I would think that the little bit of annoyance sufferd by those who live next to one of those sirens is a small price to pay for living in a community that is served by a volunteer department. Those who are annoyed should feel greatful that there are individuals who will respond to the communities emergencies. They could do one of two things: 1) join the volunteer department and help out or 2) help start a drive to raise money for the department to buy pagers or lobby the commuities leaders to fund the pagers for the department. In my volunteer department we no longer use the outdoor siren. For many years it stood near the center of town calling voluteers to the station. In the 70's the county began to use pager tones for a few of the officers who had pagers and was able to set off the tornado siren using a yelp siren instead of the steady tone for severe weather. Several years later in the 80's the outdoor sirens were put out of service since all firefigthters were issued pagers. The need for it became obsolete. We still have the old siren in the station as part of our display of times past.

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      • #4
        I can only relate our experience...

        We still use our siren, even though it serves essentially no purpose in alerting our personnel. It does, however, alert the surrounding neighborhood to the fact that there's a response in progress. That means that kids get pulled away from the street, double-parked cars get moved, etc. before our personnel get there or our trucks get on the street (usually). In that sense, the siren is a safety device.

        In addition, our experience has been that we've drawn a fair number of complaints when the siren has been OOS for short periods(people upset that apparatus came rolling by without the forewarning of the house siren), while we draw virtually none when it's in service. The "unfortunates that have to live near [it]" seem to want it, so why not give it to them?? In fact, I ran with a company years ago that suffered a significant decrease in donations when they shut down their siren. People said that they "didn't think they were doing anything anymore". Go figure. The siren went back in service.

        The only change we've made in recent years is in taking a few cycles out of the siren sequence, and that was done because we were getting apparatus out so fast that the (still cycling) siren would drown out our radio communications. Nobody complained about the shorter siren sequence.


        [This message has been edited by Bob Snyder (edited 03-14-2001).]

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        • #5
          We still use our house siren although we took it back a few cycles as well. There have been occasions when members with there pagers on with them didn't here them because of the activities they were doing outside. However they did here the house siren sounding. I even had a member of my department tell me he didn't hear either the siren or his pager but, heard his dog howling in unisen with the house siren. So I think they are still a useful tool.
          I have never heard any complaints about the house siren other than when it has gotton stuck and kept going through cycles.
          Although a downside that use to happen when it went off was people calling the station when it went off for a call wanting to know what was going on. The usaul response I gave was just what the call was, I have to go and bye. We haven't had this happen in some time. I think most of the nosy ones who would call the station most have bought scanners.

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          • #6
            If you don't have sirens as a backup to your paging system, how do you notify volunteers when your system goes down? In the last 12 years we have used the sirens on 2 occasions to alert firefighters when the pager system was down.

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            • #7
              I vote yes. While pagers are common place nowadays, there are departments in the US that cannot afford to outfit every member with a pager, in some cases only the officers so yes the siren is need in that case.

              Now in our situation, we all have pagers, however our dispatch tower sucks to be quite honest and we don't always get the page however our siren is on hard wire connection via phone lines so it will function much more reliably than our county paging system.

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              • #8
                I have mixed feelings over this subject. Our firemen all have pagers and some even are fortunate enough to be given hand helds. However, the siren still blows when the pagers go off. It helps alert the community that there are going to be emergency vehicles going through town. Is it really needed though?? I think not. We also use the sirens for tornadoes and will run it every hour on the hour on an election day (siren is right next to my office). I think we can go without the siren for fires. But, we have a community rich with tradition and this is definitely a tradition. So I do not see this siren debate going away any time soon. Just my $.02 worth.

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                • #9
                  we still use our sirens even though only 2 of 4 work. we as the fire dept use them for all general alarms during the day. the rescue squad uses them only if the duty crew rig is out and a second rig is needed no matter what time it is.
                  as for the inconvenience to those who live by them, they are only bothered by them for a minute or two, we as volunteers give up much more than that every time it goes off, so its a small sacrifice on there part

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                  • #10
                    I agree that there are times that the house siren is usefull and needed.

                    My dept's house siren stopped working about 10 years ago after a lightning strike.

                    About 2 years ago it started working and the local neighbors raised H***, it does go about 10 times a day minimum and about
                    99.999% of the volunteers have pagers. We are also a combo dept. The siren worked for about 3 days and then stopped.

                    It got that bad that a group of the neighbors hired an attorney and he researched the use of house sirens. He sent us a registered letter that stated the use of house sirens was originally designed for Civil Defense and that if we continued the use of the siren, that an injunction would be filed to shut the siren down.

                    I do agree that they should be used in the appropriate dept setting, it may mean the difference between adequate/ inadequate staffing.

                    ------------------

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                    • #11
                      Numerous FD's in my area still use an outdoor siren, including my FD. I can tell you first hand that they are still needed. There are many times that I did not have my pager or my pager didn't go off or it was turned down to low for me to hear, then I hear the siren and I know that there is a call. This happens with many people. Also, it seems most of the time that if the siren does not go off that we get a small response, so we set it off when we get to the station (if the dispatch failed to do so) and we tend to get a bunch more people.

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                      • #12
                        We still use ours but we don't have a siren we have horns that give 7 steady blasts. We have them on a timer and they don't go off from 10pm-6am. The reason they are on the timer is that people who lived around the station did complain. But the funny thing about that is that all the houses near the station are all duplexes that have rotating residents. They still get woken up though because it is our SOP to hit the Federals and airhorns when leaving the station at any time of day.
                        The horns still are good because they have alerted me to a run a few times when I have been down in my basement and my pager doesn't go off, so they still serve their purpose.

                        ------------------
                        The statements above are my own opinions

                        FF Greg Grudzinski
                        Oaklyn Fire Dept.
                        Station 18-3

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                        • #13
                          Never had them, never missed them.

                          District is 40 miles end-to-end, stations are 10 miles apart (3 stations). Many members live within a mile or two of their stations, but many more don't. Plus the area was hilly, so there were places where you'd never hear the siren anyway (unless you used the severe weather warning sirens).

                          Had Plectrons in the '70s, went to pagers (only) in the '80s. Dispatch also has a phone system that will simultaneously ring all FF home phones. When you answer, you get a repeating recording of the original dispatch (this system has been upgraded, but also dates from the early '80s).

                          Yes, if we had an area-wide power outage or phone service interuption, we'd be in trouble (but we'd probably all go to the station anyway!) but those are rare, and relatively predictable.

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                          • #14
                            I thought about it from the perspective of the firefighters responding and then as the homeowner.
                            The firefighter has their pager and is occupied with daily chores, their job, etc. An alarm goes out and both the pager and the horn/siren blows. They know from the pager if they're inside or far from the hrom the siren. They know from both if within earshot.
                            The homeowner hears the horn/siren which is near their house. It blows with repetition and then a fire/EMS vehicle leaves and blows and screams to the call.
                            What about the repeat requests if the alarm isn't answered the first time? Or the second? In one case I know of a volunteer fire company whose county number was 44. The company decided on the siren wailing 8 times (4+4=8 I guess) and the horn blowing 16 times(4x4=16) for any calls. They both were tested daily at noon with a series of blows of an unknown number (I forget).
                            Now someone of normal tolerance would, I feel, be justified to complain. When they did I was torn between the points of view.
                            I feel that the number is excessive. A compromise should be sought. The town council was siding with the FD at the time, because FD members are residents also, and that the horns are used at a time of emergencies.

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                            • #15
                              I live across the street from my firehouse. The siren goes off for every daylight fire, a 7 pm test, whenever there is no school, and it doesn't bother me one bit. I really love it when it goes off when my in-laws are over. It's LOUD and practically scares my mother-in-law to death. How can I crank up the volume when she comes next weekend?

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