Letter: Downtown Lewes fire siren totally unnecessary

October 5, 2018

We have been reading with interest the letters to the editor regarding whether loud sirens are still necessary to alert fire personnel in the 21st century. 

We live very close to the Lewes Fire Station, and have frequently been woken in the middle of the night to this frightening sound of up to nine blasts.  In addition, we have had guests report they thought there was some sort of air raid drill going on, and that they needed to take some action to protect themselves.  

While we understand the need to call volunteers when additional personnel are needed to support the service provided by employees of the fire department, we have never understood why the department would use an extremely loud siren when electronic services, such as cellphones and pagers, are available. When we have inquired about the continuing need for the siren, we have been told that this is the best way to contact volunteers when needed in an emergency. We have never found this explanation credible in light of the fact that police and hospitals, other organizations that need to bring in employees and volunteers in times of emergency, have changed their method of communication to cellphones and pagers.

The volume of the siren is the loudest sound we hear in our daily lives. It is so loud that when it goes off and we are in our yard, we must cover our ears or enter our home in an effort to prevent damage to our hearing. In the summer, the siren’s frequent use in the middle of the night disturbs our sleep.
Please note that this level of noise is much, much louder than when police cars or ambulances use sirens on the street. 

One of us lived in Washington, D.C., most of our adulthood, years of that very near to a hospital. The decibel level of those sirens is probably an order of magnitude lower than what the Lewes Fire Station uses. They did not sound like an air raid drill.  We believe that use of the siren is detrimental to our health, and have yet to hear any evidence that its use provides better support than electronic alternatives. We would also like to see a list of the incidents that have generated such use in the middle of the night as we believe they are often for traffic accidents which are mainly served by police and ambulances not summoned by sirens.

We find it troublesome that neither the administrators of the fire department, nor any officials in the city or county governments who are supposed to be working to protect their constituents’ health and well-being, feel any obligation to examine this continuing use of a siren that is detrimental to both, particularly after other municipalities have changed over to electronic methods in the past 10 years.  After years of our tolerating this unnecessary disturbance, we hope that they will finally take action to address the problem.

We understand that the siren has been moved out of other Lewes neighborhoods in the past because of neighbor protests.  For those of us who live near the fire station, the siren is most detrimental to our quality of life in Lewes, and there are better alternatives that would better support the fire department’s important work.

Martin Yerick
Bette Goldman


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