Sirens another tool to get your attention

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Saturday, January 26, 2008
— “What is that?” one woman asked a downtown co-worker when she heard a siren that sounded like it belonged in Europe.

When the women looked out a window for the source of the high-low, two-tone sound, they saw a Janesville Fire Department ambulance barreling down East Milwaukee Street.

The siren wasn’t the result of new equipment. The fire department was just changing things up.

“Our vehicles have multiple sirens, and sometimes we’ll do it (change the siren sound) just to get a person’s attention and usually at intersections or when coming up on a car that doesn’t see us,” said Jim Jensen, deputy chief.

Fire Capt. Mike Gang agreed. Eighty percent of emergency vehicle warning is visual, but sirens help, too. Changing the tone is one more option.

“But pretty much, we use the standard wail (a continuous wailing up and down in pitch) and yelp (a continuous rapid warbling) sirens,” Gang said.

The Janesville Police Department also uses the three different sirens and air horn, Lt. John Olsen said.

“In most emergency situations, the officers will use the wail siren, and then at intersections, they may use the yelp siren or air horn.

“The wail works for most situations. But the yelp with the air horn gives a different sound if people didn’t hear the initial wail sound over their stereo or other noise in their vehicles,” Olsen said.

“The hi-lo tone can be used if people are not paying attention to the previous siren tones. They can use it and whatever it takes to alert traffic or people in the area, but the wail siren is most common,” he said.

There are no regulations on which sirens to use, but there are for lights on emergency vehicles, both department spokesmen said.

“If officers are violating traffic laws when responding to any emergency, they need to have both lights and sirens activated,” Olsen said.

“State law requires that when you use a visual warning,” Gang said, “you also have to use that in conjunction with audio.”

Click here to hear sirens and comments from JPD and JFD officials

Last updated: 12:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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