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  1. #1
    Forum Member EngineCO38's Avatar
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    Default Siren Etiquette, is there such a thing anymore?

    Alright so I'm sure everyone here has at least once typed "Fire Department Responding" Into Youtube too see what comes up, I know I have on several occasions. And every time I do, with each new video that comes up I am amazed at the many different ways and manners people respond to incidents. From lazily and quietly through mid town, to having the Q pegged, the air horns blasting and a freakin powercall going to boot. And all going down an empty road at 2AM.

    I sometimes applaud people for their safe responses, and other times scoff at video's that show why Apparatus accidents are becoming more and more common these days. And then sit down, scratch my head and wonder why some dept's choose to do what they do. Why use both a mechanical and electronic siren at the same time? Are there really any benefits to it that you as a Company Officer or Driver have noticed?

    I know for me its simple, if I'm driving I don't touch a damn thing unless the Officer tells me he's too busy too deal with the sirens and what not. And we've never really been all that loud and noisy going to calls, cars seem to move just fine for us most of the time.

    So my question is this, why is it you operate your Apparatus the way that you do? Speed, siren, air horn and other warning device usage? Are they your SOP's? How you were trained or is it up to each individual driver or Officer where your from? Is all that noise REALLY necessary at 2AM!? I'm just honestly curious as to why some Departments run to calls the way they do. Thanks everyone in advance.
    Opinions expressed by myself here are just that, mine. And not that of ANY organization or service I am affiliated with.


  2. #2
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    At my career station, it all depended on the Officer. Somtimes they would make the noise, sometimes they told me to make the noise. Same thing at the Volunteer house. No real written SOP's, other than the Officer better have his/her head buried in the mapbook finding two different hydrants for the driver. No matter what however, if the other guy is not making enough noise (and this goes for when I was either a driver or company officer) I would jump in and add noise when I thought it was appropriate. As an officer, I would also tell them to "settle down" if they were out of control at 0300.

    As far as what is appropriate, or excessive......You will have idiots out there that claim "If we're up, everyone is up." Anyone who says this needs to be kicked squarely in their balls. Some like to brag that "the law says if your lights are activated your siren needs to be also."

    I respond to that by saying: "Use due dilligence."

    Let me share a story. My current home is right down the street from the local VFD (I am not a member, don't ask.) on a main street that they use for access to the rest of the town. About 3 years ago, they purchased a new pumper with a Federal Q siren, something that they did not have on their apparatus in a few years.

    So anytime at 0200 when they would get a run, they would go blasting down the street (with absolutely NO traffic whatsoever.....) with that Q pegged. The problem: My newborn son's room was in the front of the house, adjacent to the street.

    After a few months of this, the Fire Chief received an email from me. I did not identify my profession or qualifications (IFSAC/Pro-Board Driver/Operator Pumps/Aerials/ARFF) to him, just identified myself as a homeowner. I questioned the need for the siren on vacant streets at 0200, and presented the fact that it awoke my newborn son every time.

    I never received a reply from him. Problem continued. The next email that went to him (with a copy of the first email attached) was CC'd to the President of the Town Board of Supervisors. This time I identified my qualifications and experience, and questioned why their drivers did not use due dilligence with their siren use when responding. I received an email reply several days later from the fire chief (CC'd to the Pres of BOS) stating he would address the issue with his officers and drivers, pointing out that "you of all people should understand the need for sirens." I replied that "yes, I am aware of the need for sirens on busy streets at 4:00pm versus 4:00am when the streets are vacant and that a little due dilligence goes a long way.
    No more problems.

    Moral of the story: Be careful next time you hit that Q switch at 0300, you might just wake someone up who will receive a request for donations in the mail the next morning.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  3. #3
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    SOP states: lights and sirens at all times responding emergent, no more than 10 mph over posted speed limit within safe conditions, we will come to a full stop at all controlled intersections unless the light is green in our direction.

    What really happens: Everyone will run lights and sirens on emergent calls during the day. In the middle of the night, depending on the call, lights are on but siren might only be used in places of concern such as blind stretches or busy intersections. Speed is usually kept within guidelines unless there is something where the few seconds count. Most people stop (or practically stop) at the intersections.

    And for the stations that are in a residential area, we usually do everything we can to delay the siren until we're away from them. Of course, if it's honestly needed, it's used.

  4. #4
    Forum Member yjbrody's Avatar
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    Same general guidelines for us too. I was on the medic following the engine to a call early this morning. We had green lights the whole way and streets were EMP-TY. The only time I kicked on the siren was for a car that had pulled over for the engine, but I could tell they might not see me and try to merge back into the street after the engine passed. Even then it was only on for maybe 10 seconds.

    When in doubt though (sparse traffic and up), I would kick it on. It's way more of a liability if it's off and something happens than if some citizens get woken up in the middle of the night.

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    For us it depends on the type of call if we will even run emergency to. If it is a call that requires an emergency response and there is traffic on the road we will run emergency, but at 2 in the morning we won't turn anything on until we get into traffic. As for the type of siren, I run the electric, and use the Q and horns for traffic and intercections.

  6. #6
    Forum Member EngineCO38's Avatar
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    Default

    Thanks for the replies thus far guys, its very interesting to see even the smallest or subtle differences between different departments and even drivers on how they operate their piece of apparatus to calls. And also how similar they can be.

    FWD, thanks for sharing that little story and it really proves a point to one of my major pet peeves. No need for sirens at 2AM, all you'll do is tick the neighbors off. And those neighbors just might be the tax payer who's gonna vote yay or nay on the towns next pumper! We've got a couple of guys that get carried away when the words "Working" and "Fire" are put together within close enough proximity of each other on initial dispatch. They'll pass me in the first due rigs while I'm still heading to the station with the Q's pegged with no other cars in sight except for mine (I do pull over btw)

    The worst part I find is that every officer is different, and that sometimes what one officer will tolerate for siren use another will not. Makes things rather confusing when I'm getting screamed at by an officer for making too much noise during rush hour.
    Opinions expressed by myself here are just that, mine. And not that of ANY organization or service I am affiliated with.

  7. #7
    Forum Member ShaunFremontFD's Avatar
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    We are a small town and don't have many calls. For the most part, most of the guys use common sense. During the day we use lights and siren pretty much no matter what. During the night, we rarely use a siren because there isn't anyone on the roads. What is interesting though, is some guys said that we should run sirens at night because we don't get many calls and they want the public to know we have a call. That makes no sense what so ever. Thanks to a certain member of our department, our PR is bad enough. We don't need to make it worse than what it is. I DO think it is something that should at least be written in to guidelines so everyone understands what is recommended.

  8. #8
    Forum Member DubyaVFF's Avatar
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    I run sirens every call, day or night. I'd rather wake a few people up than run over one kid out past bedtime, and I've never heard a resident make a big deal out of hearing us go by on our 85 or so trips a year.

    Besides, my read of our provincial statutes is that in the eyes of the law, we are not an emergency vehicle unless we have lights and siren running. Specifically, the language used in our Motor Vehicle Act in describing a responding emergency vehicle is (italics mine):
    police and fire department vehicles and ambulances when the same are operating in emergencies and the drivers sound audible signal by bell, siren, compression or exhaust whistle
    I have a sinking feeling that if the unthinkable happened and we were running quiet, some lawyer would see that clause and be on us like a cheap suit.
    Last edited by DubyaVFF; 05-01-2010 at 04:33 PM.
    "I've met lots of volunteer firefighters, but I've never seen a volunteer fire!"
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  9. #9
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    on the one hand, I don't want to disturb people, but on the other the law says lights AND sirens. The good thing about the mechanical siren is you can control the volume on it somewhat, so you can keep it at a lower growl instead of winding it up and down. At least then if something happens its on even if it isn't as loud as it could be.

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    Default sticky situation

    In our department the use of the lights and sirens is joint between the officer and the operator. However the greater responsibility and ultimate decision being placed on the operator. Its our belief and in my opinion should be everyones belief that the operator is the one in control of the vehicle and therefor should be the one in control of the warning devices because when push comes to shove hes the one whose ***** is on the line if something happens. This being said the way we work things is for the most part daytime high traffic hours which everyone should know their response area and when these times are. During this time we set our electronic siren on whatever tone we wish for the duration of the response unless our response status is updated by units on scene. This is a little less obnoxious as the Q and satisfys the siren on at all times. We have the federal Q and we use this when approaching any heavy traffic or blind intersections as the were getting closer start clearing the intersection and yielding so we know our best route of travel through the traffic. Last we have the air horns which we use as our hey were here if you havent already get out of the way and stop. At night its very simple unless its a working fire and you have traffic infront of you dont use any audible warning device. As for speed we tell our opperators to treat every call like a fire and when responding code 3 respond the same. We believe the more you do something the more efficient you are at it so by telling people hey its just an AFA drive like it and then having a fire with entrapment your going to create an unsafe condition on that fire because people are going to try to drive above their comfortable level. Every driver should remember that getting there a few seconds later is better than not getting there at all!!

  11. #11
    Forum Member FIREMECH1's Avatar
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    I got lucky this week when I brought this up to a few stations. I caught them in one transition to another, that covered all 3 shifts. As well, the locations of them are either in the neighborhood, or off the major streets.

    Daytime is full lights and sirens at all stations.

    Nighttime is different, on where you are, and traffic and time. Those in the neighborhood usually don't hit the sirens until they hit an intersection. If it's inside that area, and no one is present or seen, then they use a quick blast of the air horn. Once on a major road, traffic and common sense depicts when to use one or both. Where there are traffic lights, they use it all, no matter what.

    As for responsibility, it is on the officers shoulder. It is his responsibility to get there as quick and safely as possible. Normally the officer will run the siren. When needed or approaching an intersection, or to get a DA out of the way, the air horn is controlled by the driver.

    Some rigs have the mechanical EQ and the PA300. The ones that do, use both in traffic.



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    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF
    "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

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    Do you have traffic light preemptors? If so, do they affect how you operate?

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    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiefengineer11 View Post
    Do you have traffic light preemptors? If so, do they affect how you operate?
    Having pre-emptors is no excuse not to use your sirens and air horns.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    Having pre-emptors is no excuse not to use your sirens and air horns.
    How about one on Penn St. at 412?

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    Forum Member FIREMECH1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiefengineer11
    Do you have traffic light preemptors? If so, do they affect how you operate?
    We have them. Doesn't mean anything other than they usually get a green light. Lights, siren, and air horns are still blazing.

    FM1
    I'm the one Fire and Rescue calls, when they need to be Rescued.

    Quote Originally Posted by EastKyFF
    "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

  16. #16
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chiefengineer11 View Post
    How about one on Penn St. at 412?
    Like I said....Having them is not an excuse NOT to use your sirens and air horns. What is your point? At 0300, you don't need to have the "Q" wound all the way up from their firehouse, all the way down Durham Street past my house, and then down Penn Street because of one blind intersection 2/3rds of a mile from the firehouse.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    well its good to allways use everything you got so the taxpayers know what there buying, too

  18. #18
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HSJohn View Post
    well its good to allways use everything you got so the taxpayers know what there buying, too
    From another thread: "Hey i just joined my local vol dept and wanted to getin on this thread i want the best lights for my car to make ppl get out of my way ina hurry is the whelen realy that much better?? i want the best light for my $$$"

    It's very obvious that you are both new to the fire service and very young as well, therefore you shall be spared from the swift, hard kick in your balls. Next time you want to "always use everything you got" at 3:00am, remember the term "taxpayer" and the word "potential donator." It's not a good idea to **** off either one of them, which is precisely what will happen at 3:00am when you "use everything you got."
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  19. #19
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    From another thread: "Hey i just joined my local vol dept and wanted to getin on this thread i want the best lights for my car to make ppl get out of my way ina hurry is the whelen realy that much better?? i want the best light for my $$$"

    It's very obvious that you are both new to the fire service and very young as well, therefore you shall be spared from the swift, hard kick in your balls. Next time you want to "always use everything you got" at 3:00am, remember the term "taxpayer" and the word "potential donator." It's not a good idea to **** off either one of them, which is precisely what will happen at 3:00am when you "use everything you got."
    Spare the kick... spoil the hick....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    From another thread: "Hey i just joined my local vol dept and wanted to getin on this thread i want the best lights for my car to make ppl get out of my way ina hurry is the whelen realy that much better?? i want the best light for my $$$"

    It's very obvious that you are both new to the fire service and very young as well, therefore you shall be spared from the swift, hard kick in your balls. Next time you want to "always use everything you got" at 3:00am, remember the term "taxpayer" and the word "potential donator." It's not a good idea to **** off either one of them, which is precisely what will happen at 3:00am when you "use everything you got."
    Short but to the point, Well said.

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