I mean the warning sirens on emergency vehicles.
The warning sirens are there because it is an emergency. In an emergency, seconds matter.
If a driver requires a siren to be alerted to the presence of a vehicle with bright flashing lights they should not be driving. I have, in twelve years of driving, never once been alerted to the presence of an emergency vehicle I needed to be aware of via sirens. Never met a blind guy that was allowed to drive, but deaf ones have no problem. Never met anyone that could give me an example where sirens would be benificial. Even in the most extreme case of an intersection surrounded by tall buildings, it is the flashing lights people will see and react to, unless they simply freeze two blocks away.
Sirens give notice in advance of the lights and the approaching emergency vehicle. When you hear sirens, you should begin to look for lights.
Let me be very clear on this point, if you are not aware enough of your surroundings to notice flashing red lights in front of you (your mirrors are also in front of you) then you are liable to kill someone on the road and for you to drive at all is stupid. And I consider stupid unethical.
during the day, the lights are not very visible, and lights do not work well through buildings, around corners, or up/down hills that may be in the way.
Now, what about potential harm caused by the use of these sirens? Sirens advertise “something interesting over here” and people will flock to it. Injury lawyers, tabloid photographers and the casually curious all get in the way of emergency personnel. Possibly even causing traffic jams, thus delaying medical treatment or fire prevention.
Sirens advertise, first and foremost; “make way”!
Beyond that they also create the false impression that life is more dangerous than it is, that there are ‘bad’ people everywhere, and the media is only too happy to embellish this further. When you hear a siren every few hours you are left with the impression of living somewhere where something criminal is always happening, and it becomes normal. Despite the fact that said sirens are almost NEVER in response to an actual crime. The only exception to this is the infamous ‘pursuit,’ and still can’t fathom why those are allowed to get out of hand. We certainly have the technology to disable a vehicle from a helicopter.
Are you forgetting about fire engines (it only takes a few minutes for a home to burn down once it gets started, I know, I have been in one and barely escaped alive), and ambulances? Police cars do not deploy their sirens only because they are chasing someone. Go to your locale police department and have a talk with them.
Further, the sound is annoying and invasive by design. Emergency personel give zero consideration to what time it is, as well they shouldn’t, but there is absolutely no need to disturb sleeping people at 3:00 am when there are not even any cars on the road to siren for. Again, the only people that need to be aware of the presence of such a vehicle are drivers on or near the same road who would be adequetly alerted by the flashing lights.
Au contrare, 3am is actually the most dangerous time to have to go Code III without lights/sirens. People are likely to be crossing the street without looking and ignoring stop signs. People are also more likely to be drunk, whether driving or walking.. This makes the call no less an emergency requiring transport as quickly as possible. Also, fires do not burn more slowly at 3am.
Finally, and this is actually my biggest arguement against them, it is a misallocation of the purpose a warning siren may serve. There are threats that we need to be able to inform the population of in a hurry. Television and radio are great for relaying information, but do not grab the attention of people doing other things. A siren warning of impending disaster would save lives. Sometimes there is only a few minutes between the warning and the catastrophe, having a siren alerting everyone to this would give each person the best possible chance to protect themselves.
It looks like you are complaining about the test sirens. We have one that goes off every Thursday at noon. I ignore it at that time (I hope we never have an emergency that starts at noon on a Thursday). When I am in my car, I listen to my iPod or a CD. Ditto at home. I may or may not answer my phone, preferring to let it go to the answering machine. The local siren would alert someone like me. I’m not sure what this part of your complaint has to do with the vehicular sirens.
It is my conclusion that emergency vehicle sirens in thier current form do not serve any good, do cause harm, and are therefore unethical. If you see holes in my reason, I would appreciate the criticism.
As someone who has been on both ends of the emergency vehicles—as a responder and a recipient. I can tell you that you are just plain wrong. As the saying goes “You are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts” :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MY82lt0ubQ Two minutes from smoking to fully afire. Two minutes to rescue the inhabitants who may not have gotten out, and begin resuscitation if necessary. Two minutes to try to keep the fire from spreading to other homes.