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Firehouse Funnies
by Will Wyatt

Hush, you'll wake the children

Noisy fire trucks are ruining the neighborhood's serenity, but I have a solution

By Will Wyatt

A story floating around the Interweb caught my eye or perhaps ear. A neighborhood in our nation's capital is up in arms about noise pollution. They have even organized and named their group: Quiet D.C.

You might think, or hope, their effort is aimed at quieting those on Capital Hill. However, the objects of their anger are those unbearably loud fire trucks.

They are ruining these innocent people's American dream and very way of life. They are just too darn loud. One woman says her children wake up screaming from the demonic sirens.

I can only imagine these meetings.

"The chair recognizes Mr. Smith from Northwest 5th St."

"Yes, Madame Chairperson, last week at noon an ice cream truck went by playing a song on a loud speaker."

They probably don't have a gavel, far too noisy.

Wide-spread panic
Now, before we busy ourselves bashing the residents of Washington, D.C., I have done a little nonscientific research and very easily found complaints like this all over the country — literally from New York to Denver to San Francisco and places in between.

I even found some guy on a public bulletin board threatening to shoot the siren atop a firehouse with a deer rifle. Whoa, calm down and eat a cheeseburger.

The overwhelming complaint seems to be the waking of children. As a parent who dealt with two infants back in the day, I appreciate the truly euphoric feeling that comes from a sleeping child. It's a nice break for all involved.

I grew up about 600 feet (as the crow flies) from the local firehouse. When there was a fire, a horn sounded atop the firehouse. Some places had a siren — a horn that blasted out the box number.

To say it was loud doesn't do it justice. The windows and plates in the cupboard rattled. There was no escaping it. Summer with the air conditioning blasting or in the winter with the windows sealed, you still heard it.

A siren's song
Yes, I was woken up many a night. However, it never occurred to me or my parental units to call the township and complain about that darn fire horn.

First of all, I was always interested in the fire response.

Secondly, I wrote it off because some poor schmuck's stuff was burning up or somebody was having a life-changing medical event and needed help. Compared to that, I could suffer through a few rounds of a Gamewell system then go back to sleep.

Fire sirens atop firehouses have been used for a long time. They date back to the day before home monitors or cell phones to summon the firefighters. Some places still use them. They also are used to back up modern wireless systems and devices and to warn of looming weather dangers.

The problem in D.C. are sirens and air horns from the apparatus. Parking has recently been allowed thus clogging up the street. Every time you see a new car commercial that boasts of a quiet interior, remember that means they can't hear sirens as well.

A question that I saw time and time again is: Do they have to run those sirens all the time? I suppose a fair question.

After the treaty was signed at Appomattox and I entered the fire academy, I was taught that on an emergency response the siren was used from the time we left the station to the time we arrived. That had something to do with the state law that basically said use all warning devices at all times.

The theory being if you were involved in a wreck, attorneys would ask if all warning devices were being used. I am sure laws vary from state to state, but attorneys asking such questions does not.

Magic solution
Naturally, as you suspected and probably feared, I have a solution.

A lot of places still give street and hydrant tests to assure personnel are knowledgeable on their districts. We can incorporate the addresses of sleeping children into this.

To take this one step further, why not use the whiz-bang technology we have available to us today. We can enter into the computer assisted dispatch databases the addresses of sleeping children.

Here's how it could play out.

"Chief 1, Engine 3, Engine 5 and Ladder 2 a reported house fire 103 Main St. at Maple Ave. Time 13:05. Be advised it is nap time for the Smith child at 665 Maple Ave.; all companies approach from Elm Ave. as an alternate."

I am sure the software companies could accommodate us. If you have computer-mapping software, these addresses could be input and appear on the map as a blue house or pink house depending on the sex of the toddler. So what if you have to go several blocks out of the way or zigzag to get there. No one has been woken up.

I would like to ask these people what if it was their house that was on fire. Except the guy with the deer rifle, I'm not going to mess with him.

Let me hear from you. 

About the author

Will Wyatt, who is originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for 25 years. Will currently works as an engineer/operator at the Village Fire Department in the Houston, Texas, area. Will also works part time at another fire department and part time at a 911 emergency medical service. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments in the Houston area including full time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Will holds a master fire fighter certification with the State of Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification, an associate degree from Houston Community College and a basic EMT certification. Recently will authored a book on the fire service entitled, "And a Paycheck, Too!" Check out an excerpt here. Contact Will at Will.Wyatt@firerescue1.com.


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