By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Boyne City Commissioners voted to reinstate use of the city’s fire siren every time firefighters are called for an emergency.
Boyne City Commissioners decided back in February to discontinue use of the city’s emergency siren every time there is an emergency call for the fire department for a six-month period to determine if it was necessary.
“While there have been no accidents from not using the siren for fire calls, the fire and police departments would prefer that it be returned to its previous use pattern,” Boyne City Manager Michael Cain told commissioners on Oct. 9. “Personally I have no strong feelings on this matter one way or the other.”
Cain said as long as there was no strong public outcry against the use of the siren then he would support the request of the police and fire personnel.
“While new technologies like radios, pagers, cell phones, text messages, etc. mainly render the siren obsolete for summoning firefighters to the hall I do believe that it does put the rest of the community on notice that something is going on and that they should pay more attention to their surroundings,” Cain said.
In addition to fire calls, the siren is used for severe weather and could be used in the case of a larger emergency.
“One of the reasons we wanted to simplify use of the siren was for severe weather,” Cain said. “We wanted to make it more apparent for people that, ‘hey, I hear the whistle and it’s telling me something’ because it is hard to distinguish between the fire whistle and the weather siren.”
Boyne City resident John McCahan voiced his displeasure over use of the siren calling it “unnecessary” and “excessive.”
“We don’t need the noise to get people to the firehouse,” he said. “There are cell phones, there are breaker phones, there are other ways, it seems to me, to gather firefighters and apparently that’s been working.”
McCahan added, “And, once they get to the firehouse, when the fire truck goes, when the emergency unit goes, they have their own siren, so people in town are aware of what’s happening.”
In an open letter from Boyne City firefighters, they made their case for ending the moratorium on the siren.
“We feel that this has a negative effect on personnel response, especially during daytime runs,” the June 18 letter states. “Understandably it would appear, on the outside looking in, that this matter only affects 23 firefighters. But, in reality, and more importantly, it adversely affects the person whose house is on fire, is trapped in a vehicle or is the victim of a countless number of other emergencies.”
The letter states that the life-saving qualities of using the siren outweigh the annoyance of a three-minute noise disturbance.
“Batteries charges fail, radios get left behind, and the 911 text message service—only used by a few—does not appear to be a reliable means of communication at this time,” the letter states. “During a recent survey of firefighters, it was clear that each one of us has responded to a call solely due to the fact that the fire whistle blew. It should also be noted that, for each of us, this has happened on several occasions.”
The motion passed unanimously.