Sirens

Its a beautiful late fall day, temperature a ridiculously beautiful 60 degrees, I've got the radio on, window down and I'm driving on West Shore Road, a two lane quiet little roadway that runs from east to west through Warwick, RI. Theres barely any traffic on this stretch of roadway and I'm enjoying the ride.

Suddenly, my heart is in my underwear and there's an ambulance two feet from my rear bumper, siren blaring in my window, lights flashing  and a driver  gesticulating and carrying on as if I'm the biggest moron to ever sit behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

So, I pulled to the right, and he flew past me, leaving a wake of sand and leaves behind. I watched him speed into the distance, knowing that his emergency is far more important than my well being or safety. A few years ago I might have followed him, and found out exactly what the rush was, and after finding out the emergent nature of his response, and most likely not,  proceeded to tear him a new one.

But I've learned to enjoy the ride.

As annoying as I find the sirens to be, turning them off and then using them only at intersections or when confronted by a person who refuses to yield the right of way is a recipe for disaster. Keeping the things on during the entire response is the best way to avoid collisions. Also, keeping the standard wail going is more effective than continuously changing from that the Hi-Lo and the air horn. A long, continuous warning works best.

People outside of our little capsule, AKA the ambulance hear us long before they see us, but only if the sirens are activated. Consider your private driving, and how you react to sirens in the distance. Immediately you look around you, and check your rear view mirrors, and wait to see where the emergency vehicle is coming from.

So turn them on, and keep them on, and stay safe. And whatever you do, don't sneak up on me!

5 Comments

  • Mr618 says:

    Some of our smaller departments up here in the wilds of Maine have been arguing this point recently. Our chiefs have been loking at the liability aspects (since someone pointed out that without the siren being activated, we were facing all sorts of legal headaches if anything happened).
     
    Thank you for reminding us of another aspect: what the motoring public does (or doesn't do).

  • Michael R. Grady says:

    When I was working at the three ambulance services (the last was a Public-EMS System), we were required by STATE LAW to have both LIGHTS AND SIREN on when running "Code-3." There are certain brands of sirens that are better than others. The top-line siren is the "Federal Q" siren (electric), which can move traffic very well (but it tears your electrical system up). The Federal PA-200 (electronic) was one of my favorites because I could make it do all kinds of "strange" sounds with it (most  fun too!). The next is the "Code-3" (electronic). It had the "air horn" mode. The "worst" in my opinion was the "Southern Vehicle Products" (electronic) which has very little "reaching power" like the other three. I always make sure that ALL LIGHTS AND SIRENS worked at the beginning of my shift. MY LIFE, MY PARTNER'S LIFE AND MY PATIENT'S LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!

  • Anthony says:

    It's our department policy that whenever the truck is moving and the lights are on, the siren is required to be on. 

  • Tj says:

    Sirens on, yes. Not changing at junctions, I’d argue no. For those with stereos up having a paaaartaaaaayy, a change might just be detected. Especially changing from wails/yelps to ‘death ray’ or two tones.

    Tj

    @meditude

    • Mr618 says:

      Someone is marketing a very low frequency siren, that — apparently — vibrates right up therough the frame of the car, like having some kid blasting the bass on his rap CDs. It has the added benefit of being audible to people with high-frequency hearing loss (like those of us who have been playing with sirens for 20 or 30 years). As I recall, it supplements existing sirens, rather than replacing them. If it makes me safer, I'm all for it.

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Michael Morse

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