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!


  • 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.



    • 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

background image Blogger Img

Michael Morse

JEMS Talk: Google Hangout

Recent Posts
800 Pounds October 13, 2015
Skin in the Game October 6, 2015
th What can I do? October 3, 2015
It is nice October 2, 2015
800 Pounds
As always Michael, dignity and respect always come first from you. Kudos.
2015-10-13 21:16:58
EMS disillusionment is alive and well
Left EMS specifically for this reason. If you get into a municipality you get to have a career. If you work for a private you get worn to the bone and treated like a replacable commodity even when there aren't enough medics to fill the trucks.
2015-10-10 13:40:59
Skin in the Game
AMEN very well said, thank you
2015-10-09 20:37:43
Chris Baumgardner
Brother I hear you on everything your saying whatever happened to the days when you could come to work and do just that come to work do your job and do a good job and not have to worry about bull crap from command staff getting in your business or making your job harder then…
2015-10-02 15:43:38
Gerry Miklos
Sleeping then and now
Most of the EMT's and FF's I know work a minimum of 24 hours straight and are on call all night long, I know of several cases where they had call all night long, so after going without sleep for so long, who can blame them. Put yourself in their boots before you say anything.
2015-09-29 22:29:23

Uniform Stories

Visit Uniform Stories

wordpress visitor counter
December 2012
« Nov   Jan »

FireEMS Blogs eNewsletter

Sign-up to receive our free monthly eNewsletter

Mr Wilson Makes it Home