NY hospitals testing 'ambient' ambulance sirens

EMS Supervisor Bob Levy said the hospitals are trying the two-toned, European sirens in an attempt to alleviate noise complaints

By EMS1 Staff

NEW YORK — Hospitals in New York are testing new ambulance sirens in an effort to alleviate noise complaints.

Moneyish reported that the Mount Sinai Health System is using more ambient, two-toned European sirens on their fleet of ambulances to see if they are easier on the ears of the public, according to EMS Supervisor Bob Levy.

“We respond to 65,000 calls a year, and then 40,000 of those calls involve patients that need to be transported back to the hospital, so we’re roughly running the siren on 100,000 trips a year. We’re bound to upset somebody,” Levy said. “But the sirens are important because they alert people that an ambulance is coming. We have to get there, we have to get there safely, treat the patient and possibly bring the patient back to the hospital safely.”

Levy said the two-tone sirens are just as loud, but not as shrill.

“The traditional siren that you hear [in the U.S.] is called the wail, where it goes up and down, almost like an ocean wave. It’s very piercing, which is why it is the default on most sirens,” he said. “The European alternating high-low tone seems to be more melodic to the ear, and it’s gotten a lot of positive response. And it’s also getting people’s attention better because it sounds so unique.”

Levy added that although the existing sirens can be annoying, responders still need to alert drivers they are coming through.

“We’re trying to find a happy medium where we can assure the safety of the patients we transfer, and our staff, without driving everybody crazy.”


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