Sirens: Loud, ineffective and risky, say experts

Sirens: Loud, ineffective and risky, say experts


The same risks identified in studies of rescue operations generally apply to police and fire-fighting operations, although posting criteria and cultures in these public safety disciplines can vary widely, experts said.

For ambulances, some medical services are making efforts to meet response times, based on studies from the 1970s, when devices such as automatic defibrillators were not yet widely used in public facilities. Some municipal contracts require private ambulances to adhere to outdated response times, which encourages the use of lights and sirens, experts said.

In rural areas, it doesn’t seem intuitive that ambulances and fire departments have to rely on lights and sirens to get through traffic, but they create an appeal that can help with volunteer recruitment, said Dr. Clawson. “Overheating”, he said, is an adrenaline rush and makes the reactions appear more exciting.

“It feels good and it feels like it’s working,” he said. “When it’s embedded in an institution – and a fire department is as good as an institution as it gets – it can be difficult to change.”

Wayne M. Zygowicz, now the facility director for South Metro Fire Rescue in Centennial, Colorado, wrote in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services in 2016 that how easily an emergency vehicle is seen and heard depends on its color, size, and markings Lights and sirens are among the main features.

“Our hearing is one of our keenest and most important senses,” he wrote. “Just try shouting or whistling loudly in a crowded venue and you’ll see how effective you are in getting people’s attention.”

Still, sirens have to compete with the improved insulation and sound systems of modern cars.

In an experiment conducted on a closed road by the former Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation of New Jersey, the siren of an ambulance starting 1,500 feet from an idling car was set to “howl”. With the window open, the driver heard the siren, as the experiment showed.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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