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Thread: Noise at Night

  1. #1
    tfd603 Guest

    Post Noise at Night

    Does anyone use any courtesy for runs late at night. I am talking about when no traffic is on the road and you are going through a small town that rolls up its streets at 8pm do you still wake up the sleeping. We have a dept in our area that does and my Dept doesnt. I know the laws but is it so bad to have some courtesy for the sleeping??

  2. #2
    Resq14 Guest


    Personally, I feel that if there is a need to have lights on, then there is a need to have your siren on. Along those lines, if ya don't need your siren, then you don't need your lights. So I guess it depends on the type of call to which you are responding.

    If you don't think you need your siren because you're worried about waking people up, then you probably don't need your lights either. Like you said, if there isn't a car on the road and the only stoplight in town is blinking yellow, what is the point?

    On the other hand, if you're headed to a "hot" call and plan on taking advantage of the exemptions made for emergency vehicles (proceeding through stop signs & red lights, operating against flow of traffic, exceeding posted speed, expecting cars to yield to you, etc.) I would have the lights and siren on. I view call response as an all-or-nothing type deal. Either it needs a "hot" response, or it doesn't. And I think using terms like hot vs. cold is better than the vague "codes 1 through 3", "priorities 1 through 4," etc. There's less room for error if it's kept simple and reasonable.

    If the call you are responding to does not necessitate such driving, then I don't think you need lights and sirens -- whether it's 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. Granted, a prioritized dispatching system helps a great deal in determining whether a call is "hot" or "cold," and provides a uniform set of guidelines for everyone to operate under. A prioritized dispatching system (AMPDS, for example) would take into account your specific EMS delivery model. For example, a more rural service might be running "hot" more often than a suburban transport rig that is responding to scenes already being tended to by a 1st Responder engine company.

    Just keep in the back of your mind the following; all it takes is one collision for it to be one collision too many. And if you collide while responding in "hot" mode but without all of your warning devices operational (lights AND siren), in many places you'd be in a world of trouble.

    Courtesy for the sleeping is nice, but I think your question deals in part with the larger issue of emergency vehicle operation and call prioritization. When viewed in this way, I think it's easier to decide how you're going to drive at 2am.

    Then again, maybe all I did was muddy the waters for ya. =)

    [This message has been edited by Resq14 (edited 01-01-2001).]

  3. #3
    fireman703 Guest


    We turn our siren off as much as possible. The lights and siren are a request not a demand to have the right of way. We must still obey all the rules of the road with the exception of greater speed. If I am coming on a busy intersection or an area with other traffic I turn the siren on. The most important thing to remember is to drive cautiously. Also expect the populous to Ignore the fact that you are an emergency vehicle and drive defensively.

  4. #4
    Adze Guest


    Generally after midnight, we tend to only hit the sirens near street intersections and when there are cars on the road. We try to be a little curtious at night, even though we still have the siren on top of the firehouse blaring away.

    703: Unlike where you live, here in CT the sirens and lights are a demand for right-of-way. Our personnal lights in our cars (which are blue) are just curtousy lights which only request right-of-way.

  5. #5
    Texasff62 Guest


    In all honesty i think that the use of lights and sirens is purely situational, I know that in my dept, we use the use the electronic, Q2 and air horns on all of our major streets all the time. I do not have a problem with this because i live in the middle of the city and there are always lots of people on the road reguardless of the time. now when it comes to the neighborhoods when it is 3am i really feel that it is unecessary to use sirens but still use the lights, shut them off at the scene if they are not needed. I guess it all comes down to what is safest, people can always go back to bed but we cannot replace one of our brothers who was lost due to some Jamoke blowin an intersection and t boneing the apparatus. like i said before it is purly on the situation at hand

    the above are my opinions and mine alone

    Kevin Wiseman
    Oklahoma State University School Of Fire Protection
    Ponderosa FD, Houston Texas

  6. #6
    SteamTrain Guest


    I look at it this way, knowing the people in my territory as I do, The more folks we wake up, the more likely they are to shoot or cut somebody, the more likely we are to go on another call later. So I try to be as quiet as I can within the rules. I run lights & siren as our Dept. Operating Guidlines specify. Since no specific siren is mentioned, I usually just "bump" the Fed. Q2b on the way to the call. That way I'm following the guidelines and not disturbing the locals as bad as using both sirens and air horns.

    'Nuff said.

    GOD is my Fire Chief, JESUS is my Incident Commander!

  7. #7
    dfwscotty Guest


    Got your story down? It may go something like this...."Mr. Firefighter, would you please explain to the jury as well as the 6 surviving children of Mrs. Doe why you did not have your siren on when you responded to that emergency." There has been instances where emergency workers have ended up in jail on manslaughter charges even when both lights and sirens were in use.

  8. #8
    FFCode3EMT Guest


    My department uses lights and sirens for all calls, but we try to keep the sirens to a minimum at night. The Engines and Tower usually use the Q and it's keep low until we get near an intersection then it gets bumped a few times until we get through. The Squads use the electronic siren and try to use it minimally.

    **The preceding comments in no way represent the views of my department, its members, or associations that it may belong to.**

  9. #9
    Resq14 Guest


    I hope I didn't miscommunicate my point.

    I certainly agree that it's usually completely unnecessary to play with the siren at 3am, especially in the smaller parts of the country like where I'm from.

    But what I don't underdstand is if you don't need your siren, why do you have your lights on??? I've always thought that these "partial" emergency responses send mixed messages to the public. Either use the warning equipment if you need to get there, or don't use it at all.

    I still maintain that if you are making use of the exemptions allowed for emergency vehicles (as your state allows), you'd better have all of your warning equipment operational. No, it's not a "get out of jail free" card, but it sure as heck is common sense.

    Along the lines of sending mixed messages, I don't understand why some people activate lights and sirens while driving 5mph under the speed limit, completely stopping at every intersection, and basically driving with the flow of traffic. Safe driving is great. But if you're not going to be driving in "emergency mode," I think it's generally a bad practice to have your warning devices on.

    Tradition dies hard I guess.

  10. #10
    Les.H Guest

    Thumbs up

    Our Brigade has a policy that between 2300hrs and 0700hrs the use of sirens will be restricted and used at the OIC's discretion. All drivers, I am sure, proceed with all due care and attention and don't put themselves, crew members or other road users in danger. It's also difficult stopping a 12 ton truck in a very short distance and warnings are needed. I sometimes see other stations on straight roads, at night, no other road users in sight and the horns are blearing - why. Must be on an ego trip.

    Horns are only a warning, not a right of way. It takes a lot to be an emergency driver, they need all the help that they can get. Drive within the limits of the vehicle, consider prevailing weather conditions, consider the danger locations (junctions), think and plan ahead and think for the other road user and, at night, there will be no need to wake up every man and his dog for miles around.

    Kindest regards & keep safe,

    Sprinkle (UK)

  11. #11
    Turk II Guest


    Use of a siren, should be the decision of the DRIVER... not the officer. The driver is the person in control and in charge of the vehicle while it is moving. The driver should be able to make decisions on the amount of warning to use.

    If the driver is in complete control of the vehicle then there shouldn't be a concern that the truck could t-bone another vehicle at an intersection. I guess the bottom line is simple - slow down, have due regard, and use caution. There's as little need to blow through an intersection as there is to wind a Q2 to its maximum speed.
    - Turk

  12. #12
    F52 Westside Guest


    I limit the use of my siren at night. There is a lot less that you have to watch for at night. We use the sirens thru intersections and if there are cars on the road. The siren is not going to save you from getting in an accident, your brain is what keeps you from that. If you drive sensibly and pay attention to the road and the other .... "drivers" then you will probably do all right. Fireman703 said it best "Also expect the populous to Ignore the fact that you are an emergency vehicle and drive defensively.". They will !!

    As far as using the lights, we are expected to respond "emergency traffic" on emergency calls and that is what we do.
    When emergency personnel get on scene and evaluate the situation, then it can be decided whether everyone else is needed emergency traffic or not. You cannot always read the situation thru a phone line.
    Well nuff' babblin'

    Eddie C. - a.k.a - PTFD21
    ECarn21's Homefire Page
    Local 3008
    "Doin' it for lives n' property"

    [This message has been edited by F52 Westside (edited 01-02-2001).]

  13. #13
    Bob Snyder Guest


    The choice is pretty clear here in PA...the vehicle code clearly states that (I'm paraphrasing) all visual and audible warning devices shall be activated when responding to an emergency. There is no exception for time of day, etc. For many years, my company did run these half-baked responses (lights/no siren or sirens only at intersections) because it was night, because it was some non-emergency call, or whatever.

    In more recent years, we want emergencies to be run lights & sirens and non-emergencies to be run "normal flow", and nothing in between. To be honest, it's taken a while for some people to get used to the idea that they need to decide from the get-go that they are either running hot or cruising in "normal flow". Regardless of whether they completely agree or not, everyone has prety much gone along with this without much complaining. What's convinced the "non-believers" have been the few fender-benders we've gotten into over time...the first 20 questions the cops ask are variations on "did you/they have their lights and sirens going" and "did you/they slow down/stop before going through that intersection". If you pass those two tests, and there are bystanders who can verify your story, you're generally OK (because the other driver involved will usually get cited for failure to yield.

    As for the community, there really haven't been any complaints from anyone of any consequence (we have a few neighbors that will bitch no matter what we do, but they're the same ones that bitch no matter what the cops do, the Borough Council does, etc., etc., so everybody just ignores them). It's kind of the same phenomenon as our ouse siren...we got many more complaints when we shut it down (or it went OOS on its own) than when it's running.

  14. #14
    Firelover Guest


    In our province, we have the same thing as what Bob "paraphrased". The only thing is that nobody seems to listen. Personally, I would run all out, but I'm afraid of being singled out or whatever else people will do to a person. Know what I mean? We have even reviewed the provincial policies a few times. Just my thoughts.....


    If you sent us to HELL, WE'D PUT IT OUT!!

  15. #15
    fireman_1 Guest


    We turn our sirens on until we get tired of them, or if there's cars out then we turn the sirens on (especially if it's the "Q")! We also turn them on if we know someone that lives on the road! Like a fire fighter or a friend or something! I slept through a call that ended up being a structure and the first truck went by my house and they turned all sirens on to wake me up! But I don't think the citizens should even think about complaining unless the dept. is just going a few blocks to a call! (sorry about rabelling on there!)

  16. #16
    MetalMedic Guest


    What about "Noise at Day"??? Being a shift worker, 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon is the middle of the night to me. So, do you only extend this courtesy to the "normal" people??

    When I am operating a vehicle on a response, my siren use is based upon the manner of my response. If I am not exceeding the speed limit and not planning to "cautiously go past" a traffic control device, I normally don't use the siren. However, if I am doing something that would be a violation of the law if I were not in a public safety vehicle (exceed the speed limit, going past traffic control device, driving left of center, etc) I ALWAYS will operate the emergency lights while sounding the siren as required by the Ohio Revised Code. If, Heaven forbid, I were to get into an accident, I will at least be able to testify in court that I was driving within the intent of the Revised Code. When the burdon of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt", I don't want to add any doubts to the case.

    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

  17. #17
    Adler Guest


    In Iowa, you can run lights w/o sirens. In South Dakota if you run Lights you have to run sirens. We run lights and sirens at night as little as possible like when we are coming up to an intersection. When we cross over to South Dakota....we run all or nothing. Unless, we have a seizure patient. Then, it is the discretion of the EMT. If it is a possibility that the patient will seize, we shut down. We always stay within state regulations. If we don't enforce them, why should others??

  18. #18
    Resq14 Guest


    once again i agree with metal

  19. #19
    Kyle Wickman Guest

    Thumbs up

    If I am up, everyone gets up. Just kidding, may be. No we have to or we get in big trouble. We have a ton of lights so we have to. Also there are three major schools here so there is always a ton of people out.

  20. #20
    tc1chief Guest

    Thumbs up

    In Virginia calls should be responded to with "due regard to Life, Limb, and Property in accordance with the Department's in place and approved By-Laws, SOP's, and Virginia State Code Sections 27-11 and 46.2-920. These State Code Sections dictate the use of lights and sirens and does not give a time frame they should be used, in fact the State Police, County Board of Supervisors, and County Attorney has instructed us not to cut them off. I would hate to be the Department's Chief Officer on trial of a response accident who instructed his units to respond in violation of the law. I think we all know what the verdict would be. I want to thank all of you who responded to this forum and for your honesty. I would like to take this time to especially thank the following people who responded:
    dfwscotty--Thanks my defense exactly
    FFCode3EMT--Same here Electronic on Q2B and Horns in congested areas and Intersections only.
    F52 Westside--I agree 100% with the last paragraph.
    Bob Snyder--A+ Same as our area, we have 3 constant crybabies that has now grown to 4 with the last written submittal to my governing body and Chief of Police, and may I add they all live on the Main drag thru the Town.
    Metal Medic--A++ May I assure you that our department does not discriminate against anyone and that we are an Equal Opportunity Siren Blower...

    Correct me if I'm wrong the score is as follows not counting tfd603's or tc1chief's post:
    17 sounds sirens after hours
    1 does not but later agrees with W/Metal

  21. #21
    TowerLadders Forever Guest


    This is a good topic, some of you people scare me, red lights and sirens do not give anyone the right to run red lights and stop signs I do not care what the law says. Go ahead and just out right run a red light and hit someone and see what the law says. When I approach an intersection with a stop sign or red light I ALWAYS bring my vehicle to a complete stop or almost a complete stop until I see I have a clear passage, I am asking for the right to pass through the intersection, the vehicles that have the green has the right of way. Usually I am seen by oncoming traffic before I'm heard, don't forget the sound of our sirens are sounding strait ahead of our units not around corners. I have witnessed alot of emergency vehicle drivers blow right through stop signs and red lights without even slowing down, I'd like to grab those people by the neck and set them straight. I have seen many companies in my area respond red lights and siren to stand-bys, I have never figured out what the hurry is to get to the station to just sit. I've even talked to some of the drivers that I've seen do that and they get mad at me for bringing it up, what if a fire broke out before they got to the station is what some tell me, go figure. To listen to some of you people you sound like them. Yes at night I use the siren a little less than durring the day, I know my area and know where my danger spots are to use the siren. sorry for venting alittle hear but are jobs are dangerous enough as it is no need to add more danger.

  22. #22
    Resq14 Guest


    I consider proceeding through a stoplight -- even after coming to a complete stop -- to be "running a stoplight." I also consider this to be the responsible and safe way to proceed through a stoplight. It can be done with "due regard" by stopping or coasting slowly through to assure a clear passage, or it can be done in a maniacal kind of way. I'm sure we've all experienced both types and everything in between.

    Emergency vehicles are permitted to exceed the speed limit, go past traffic control devices, drive left of center, drive against the flow of traffic with audible and visual warning devices activated. They must use "due regard" for road, weather, and traffic conditions, and must be responding on an emergency call. Station coverage, imho, is hardly an emergency call. This goes back to call prioritization.

    I don't think anyone was condoning blistering through controlled intersections at warp factor 4.

    In many states, the law is that traffic will yield to emergency vehicles emitting audible and visual warning devices by pulling to the right side of the road and coming to a complete stop. That is the law. These same laws also exempt emergency vehicle responses from some of the normal rules of the road. Of course we'd all be fools to think that everyone will always obey the law, and that accidents don't happen. I'm not saying that at all. As operators, we play it on the safe side and assume people don't see or hear us, and that they won't be yielding. I agree, this is the way to be.

    As far as knowing your area and using the siren for identified danger zones, I'd be more worried about the unknown than the known.

    tc1chief, i think you misinterpreted me. All my posts here have agreed with metalmedic. When I said that I didn't think sirens were necessary late at night, I wasn't saying drive with just your lights on. I was saying if you are not going to exceed the speed limit, go past traffic control devices, drive left of center, or drive against the flow of traffic then WHY HAVE YOUR LIGHTS ON AT ALL? Do people just like to drive around with the pretty red lights on? Seems almost as bad as wanting to "play with the siren!"

    The larger issue is how we determine what is an emergency, and what isn't. Risk vs. benefit... why are we driving lights and sirens to station coverage? Is a broken ankle worthy of a "hot" response? Does the risk outweigh the benefit? When you are operating lights and sirens, how much time are you really saving if you're stopping at all traffic control devices and driving the posted speed?

    Most times, the decision of "hot" or "cold" (or less desirably, something in between) is based on tradition, instinct, or flying by the seat of your driver's (or officer's) pants. I wouldn't want to try to explain any of those in front of a judge, jury, and prosecutor. Your department should have call responses predetermined so people aren't guessing "should we turn the siren on" or "maybe we just need lights" etc.

    [This message has been edited by Resq14 (edited 01-02-2001).]

  23. #23
    Resq14 Guest


    Many aeromedical services prohibit telling the pilot of the helicopter the nature of the emergency to which they're responding.

    The rationale: they don't want the pilot to take unnecessary risks by flying in inclement weather, flying dangerously, etc.

    What a concept. Granted, we're still rolling the trucks if it's hailing. And having a fender bender in the sky is a bit different than on the ground. But I still find the concept intriguing.

  24. #24
    Gill Guest


    I agree that the siren does not need to be used all the time during middle of the night responses for my engine company. But that's just mine. Other's districts may warant it.

    I see where some of you are coming from and your reasons for only using the lights in residential neighborhoods late at night. Late at night, most people are sleeping. Most pedestrian and civilian drivers should be able to see the flashing lights, and you won't be waking most of the residents. Yes, this is a courteous act. At the same time, the driver should be driving cautiously, looking out for those who may have their head up their butt.

    Whether you leave the lights on with no siren, turn them off when the siren goes off, or run everything--it doesn't matter much. In the wee hours of the morning in a residential neighborhood, the aggresiveness of the driver probably will not change. As long as the driver has control of his rig at all times, all should be fine.

    My engine company runs it's lights and sirens all the time. No matter what time of day or night. That's just the way we do it. That doesn't mean that's the way YOU have to do it. The fact of the matter is, there are rules that each State, County, City, and/or department have. Whether those rules are followed is up to the individual. Everyone just needs to understand that there are consequences to be dealt with in the event that the rules are broken and something bad happens.


  25. #25
    Resq14 Guest


    Originally posted by Gill:

    I see where some of you are coming from and your reasons for only using the lights in residential neighborhoods late at night. Late at night, most people are sleeping. Most pedestrian and civilian drivers should be able to see the flashing lights, and you won't be waking most of the residents. Yes, this is a courteous act. At the same time, the driver should be driving cautiously, looking out for those who may have their head up their butt.

    Whether you leave the lights on with no siren, turn them off when the siren goes off, or run everything--it doesn't matter much.

    If you are driving cautiously through a quiet residential neighborhood at 2am, and you don't feel there is a need for sirens, why is there a need for lights? To warn pedestrians that...? To warn civilian drivers that...? If you're driving so CAUTIOUSLY through a neighborhood, what are the warning lights for?


    I'm not trying to be argumentative, and I'm not saying it's wrong. I just don't understand what people are thinking. And I get the impression that we do it simply because that's the way it's been done in the past. No one has explained why they feel driving around with the red lights blinking is necessary at 3am "when no traffic is on the road and you are going through a small town that rolls up its streets at 8pm." This probably isn't the fire service's most pressing issue, but I'm curious why it's done.

    What exactly are you trying to warn people about? That you're out driving cautiously late at night? I'm assuming when you think you have a "big" call late at night you use sirens as you expedite your response. Yes/No?

    imho, if you don't need the siren, you don't need the lights. If you don't need the lights, you don't need the siren. I'm not down with "quasi-emergency responses." I'm all for courtesy, but when you shut your siren off, why not just shut off the lights too?

    [This message has been edited by Resq14 (edited 01-03-2001).]

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