Q & A about the fire siren 2.13

Written by David Green.


You’re enjoying a chance to sleep in on a weekend morning, but there it goes, pulling you out of slumber.

You’re walking downtown when the blast begins and the volume is almost painful.

It’s Morenci’s fire siren, and many people wonder why it even blows these days since fire department members all carry pagers.

There are two reasons the siren continues to sound, said Morenci’s fire chief Chad Schisler.

It’s true that pagers alert firefighters, but it’s also true that pagers don’t always operate as they should.

“We continue to use the siren as a backup to our pager system,” Schisler said. “The paging system is continuing to be improved through the funds that all telephone users pay on their monthly phone bills.”

When the siren is activated at the dispatch system in Adrian, a tone also triggers the pagers.

Schisler said there are no plans to discontinue use of the siren. Even if the paging system were to become more dependable, the siren serves in another way that he finds valuable.

“The other advantage is that it makes citizens aware that we are responding to an emergency and they start looking for emergency vehicles going to and from the station.”

All right, so the siren is going to stay, but does it have to be so loud?

Schisler said before the existing siren was purchased, there was a discussion about buying two sirens—one for each end of town. Because that would have doubled the price, the decision was made to go with a single siren that can be heard at the edges of the community.

Schisler said where he lives on the west side of town, it’s not loud at all and a lower volume could easily be missed.

So if the volume is going to stay loud, couldn’t it at least blow for a shorter duration? This would minimize the disruption to people in downtown businesses making telephone calls and it would shorten the blow to pedestrians.

One 360° rotation takes one minute, Schisler said, so the cycle is set on two minutes for two rotations. Sometimes it’s cut short if a firefighter is at the station and turns it off early.

OK, so if it’s going to blow loud and it’s going to blow long, couldn’t it at least be used only for the fire department?

We no longer have volunteer rescue squad members rushing to the fire hall, so a warning to look for vehicles isn’t needed. Besides, there’s often quite a delay between the siren and the appearance of the ambulance, so it doesn’t really serve as a warning to look out for the ambulance. It’s equipped with lights and a siren anyway.

It’s not that simple, Schisler said. The fire department and the ambulance service both use the same paging system, so it’s not a matter of using it for one but not the other.

The ambulance service could use its own radio channel, but once again it’s going to cost a lot more money.

Due to his work schedule, Schisler sleeps during the day and he, too, would be pleased not to be awakened for rescue calls. A large majority of Morenci’s sirens are for the ambulance.

All right, you win—or, perhaps, the ambulance wins, but one more question. What about those occasional night time sirens? That’s not supposed to happen except for the severe weather siren blast.

“The fire siren is operational from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., approximately,” Schisler said. “The unit is on a timer and through power interruptions the timer will occasionally be off until the technician re-programs the unit.”

Any other questions?

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