There is presently no standard for the maximum decibel level of emergency service sirens and the noise emitted carries so far from the source that people for up to half a mile can be emotionally affected by the alarm. Each County Police, Fire and Ambulance Service are free to use whatever means of alarm they choose, which accounts for the variety of sounds that are currently heard.
Most sirens are pure tone, and not easily locatable by human hearing. This confuses the hearer which can cause accidents because the victim may not look in the right direction and move out of the way of oncoming emergency vehicles. The only people who should hear the emergency siren are those who are in close proximity to be warned of imminent danger.
The NAS has received many calls on our helpline relating to the incredibly loud and increasing frequency of emergency service sirens (ESS). The current siren noises are excessive, scar the aural environment and negatively affect the health and wellbeing of local residents, road users as well as the paramedics and patients inside the emergency vehicle.
Broadband Sound Technology
Broadband sound technology utilises a directional white noise so only those who need to hear it are alerted to the approaching vehicle. This technology has already been proven to be less intrusive, more effective and safer in reversing alarms on large vehicles as part of our ‘Quietening the Streets’ campaign. NAS working with Brigade Electronics led to nationwide recognition of these broadband reversing alarms.
The NAS has pioneered the use of this white noise technology to replace the current standard issue emergency vehicle sirens and continue to look for funding to conduct trials of suitable alternative sirens.
The excessive noise produced by ESS is a very difficult subject to raise through the media because sympathy lies with the emergency service personnel who are doing an incredible job under extremely stressful conditions and just carrying out their very important duties. This is the main reason why the issue does not receive the attention it deserves from the authorities.
Campaign for Change
The problem moving forward lies in the cost of research needed to evidence the health and safety aspect, the fact that emergency services are in separate silos all over the country, an inherent unwillingness for change – and then of course, there is the cost of replacing the alarms, although the cost of changing the sirens should not be prohibitive and a simple operation to substitute new for old.
Political will is needed to cause a change to happen all over the UK. The NAS is raising the issue that this noise is unnecessarily excessive and will continue to put pressure where it can to bring about change.
Actions from the public that can help raise political support are by raising awareness through social media and writing letters to newspapers, your local Councillors, MP’s, Local Authority, emergency service providers and the home office. Please cc NAS in any correspondence so we can support you if necessary.