Lights and sirens: An eighth grader’s perspective

A future EMT’s submission to the NPR student podcast challenge seeks to educate the public about lights and siren use

Melia Murphy, a student at The Clinton School, in New Yok City, explored the safety and effectiveness of lights and siren from the perspective of a 8th grader in NYC for the NPR Student Podcast Challenge with the goal of educating the general public on the appropriate and safe use of L&S. The podcast features several faculty from the NEMSQA L&S Collaborative, including Jeff Jarvis, Bryan Wilson, Mike Taigman and Rick Ferron.

By Melia Murphy

Lights and sirens is the constant soundtrack where I live in NYC, but often people don’t even notice them or pay them any attention. Therefore they often don’t achieve their intended purpose.

“It usually just ends up being more background noise because of all the things happening around me.”

New York teenager Melia Murphy submitted an 8th grade school project on the topic of lights and siren use by first responders to an NPR podcast contest.
New York teenager Melia Murphy submitted an 8th grade school project on the topic of lights and siren use by first responders to an NPR podcast contest. (Photo/Getty Images)

“I kind of gotten used to it, so like, I don't always notice it.”

Those were the responses from two of my eighth-grade classmates when asked about their reactions to seeing and hearing lights and sirens.

I never thought much about this constant use of sirens or paid attention to other people's responses, and I never questioned whether or not using lights and sirens was the right thing for emergency vehicles to do. I just assumed it was what was needed to get really sick or hurt people quickly to the hospital to save their lives. But then I started to hear a new soundtrack in my shared office with my mom, Sheree Murphy, the executive director of NEMSQA, in our NYC apartment – a constant dialogue about the safe use of and how to reduce the use of lights and sirens.

So when I had to create a podcast to submit to the NPR student podcast challenge for my ELA class, this topic grabbed my interest because I wanted to learn more about it, and it applies directly to my life in NYC. When I first proposed this topic to my teacher, she didn’t quite understand the problem. She literally wrote on my proposal paper, “I don’t think I understand your topic. You are going to have to explain it to me further.”  Her reaction encouraged me even more, to help the general public understand the safety concerns and appropriate use of lights and sirens.

In the making of the podcast, I interviewed experts on the topic and struggled to cut it down to meet the eight-minute time limit because they all said such great things. But by the end of the process, I had a final product I was happy with, and my podcast was submitted to NPR. I was not a finalist, but my topic was mentioned in the article announcing the finalists. I still hope my podcast can help the public understand and recognize this issue.

Learn more

About the author

Melia Murphy is a rising 9th grade student at The Clinton School in New York City. She’s interested in healthcare and EMS, and enjoys spending time at the East Clinton Fire House in Clinton Corners, N.Y., and participating in community outreach events like CPR and first aid training. She plans to become an EMT when she’s old enough. She enjoys a variety of activities including competitive swimming and running, musical theatre, volunteering with Girls on the Run, gardening and gluten-free baking.

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