Pa. fire officials fire back at social media complaints about sirens

“I heard that, ‘It's an old tradition and you really don't need a fire siren.' Well, we do," Asisstant Chief Joe Flanick said

By Michael Divittorio
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

OAKMONT, Pa. — Oakmont firefighters want to quench some social media flames about their emergency sirens.

There are three sirens in the borough. One at the fire station along Virginia Avenue, one by Tenth Street Elementary and one at the bottom of Ann Street.

All go off simultaneously for an emergency, and during a test Saturday at noon.

Comments about the sirens were posted earlier this month on the private social media site Nextdoor, which sends you to a community message board based on the address a user enters upon registration.

They included: "This is 1910's technology," "they really need to get with the times" and "nothing productive to add but I hate that siren."

There also were comments on the post in support of firefighters, and surprise at the topic, such as: "Our fireman will be answering an emergency, no matter the time of day or the weather," and "nothing starts a discussion like mentioning the volunteer fire department siren. Who knew?"

Assistant Fire Chief Joe Flanick went before council to explain the need to keep the sirens going.He talked about how firefighters' cell phones and pagers may not be heard or even functioning at times, and the sirens alert everyone of an emergency.

"When you hear that siren look twice before you go out because there's going to be a lot of people changing their daily pattern to come help somebody that's in need," said Flanick. "I heard that, 'It's an old tradition and you really don't need a fire siren.' Well, we do."

Flanick said the siren at the fire station is about 10 decibels less than the other two, which he said could not be adjusted.

Those two sirens are approximately 60 years old. The one at the fire station was bought last year. The volunteer fire department has 18 active members.

Flanick said he plans to put something in the borough newsletter and its website explaining the different alarms sounded by the sirens.

"If you hear the siren going off for about nine minutes, something's probably wrong," he said. "That means there is a severe storm or tornado coming through. We have had to use that in my 20 years hear about two or three times.

"This isn't just something the fire department wants as a tradition. It's something that the community really needs to have and not let go away."

Mayor Christopher Whaley lauded the fire department and its volunteers.

"Unless you've worked in public safety, you don't understand how valuable every single second is when it comes to helping save someone's life," he said. "Keep that in mind before people start speaking negatively about a tool that helps our fire department better serve our community."

No one complained about the sirens at the council meeting.

Council members said they would be willing to hear a discussion about the sirens, but did not mention anything about taking them down.

"They serve a function to make the community aware that there's a fire in the neighborhood," council President William Benusa said.

Copyright 2018 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 

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