Appreciative of the change in siren protocol

May 10, 2019

I am writing in response to the Barefootin’ column in the Friday, April 26 edition of the Cape Gazette. In this column, Mr. Forney reminisces about the many sounds of a busy town that he has enjoyed since he came to Lewes 44 years ago.  I am also responding to a number of negative letters and cartoons in the last year in the Gazette concerning the “newcomers” daring to question the tradition of an antiquated air raid siren to summon firefighter volunteers.  

I too love the sound of a whistle blowing daily to announce that it’s time to go to work.  My father worked for his entire career at a manufacturing plant in Baltimore.  My husband’s father worked the line at Hughes Aircraft in California.  Like you, I love the sound of fishing boats’ horns on the canal. I cherish any sounds that remind me we live in a maritime district.  We live across the street from a church and enjoy the sound of the bells on Sunday mornings.  And of course, the sound of a fire truck or ambulance travelling to a serious incident is reassuring as is the sound the fire station door makes when it rises so that the fire truck can exit.  I also include here the roar of the helicopters flying patients from Beebe Healthcare to Christiana to be treated for very serious injuries.

As one of the neighbors of the Lewes firehouse who communicated over the last year or so our problem with the air raid drill siren being used night and day to summon volunteer firefighters, I appreciate the recent decision to only use this type of communication to the volunteers for certain severe and less-common incidents such as those car accidents needing the jaws of life to remove trapped passengers from a car. The volunteers are summoned by cellphones and texts for all incidents.  

As you may already know, the siren summons to the volunteers was not at its present location at the fire station when we bought our home 10 years ago.  My understanding is that previously it had been located on Lewes Beach and then at Canalfront Park, but that it was moved following reports that it was scaring the children who played there.  

This is the purpose of an air raid siren, as those of us who grew up in the 1950s know.  We had to duck and cover during drills to avoid the feared nuclear threat.  The purpose of this type of alarm is to stimulate action from those who hear it.  Friends who have stayed with us and were awakened at 3 a.m. by the six-blast air raid summons thought that they must need to evacuate for an emergency such as a tornado.  

I also want to mention here that when we are at friends’ houses as little as two blocks away, the sound is significantly muted from the decibel level at the houses directly behind the station. The level of intensity and hardship is greatest only for a relatively small number of Lewes residents.  

I would suggest that if you or anyone else feels nostalgic for the air raid siren sound, perhaps they could volunteer their own back yard for it to be relocated to.  It may change your opinion. In the meantime, again, we are very appreciative for the change in protocol, and are hopeful that we all have reached a healthy compromise.  And we hope that we can all enjoy the sounds of the sea birds in our lovely town.

Bette Goldman


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