Thursday, November 13, 2008
Can You Hear Me Now?
In a former day and time, I served as a volunteer chaplain/fireman for our local fire department. One of the greatest thrills in serving on the fire department was driving the fire truck. (Did you expect me to say helping people?) However, driving the fire truck was also one of the greatest problems. Well, the truck wasn’t the problem, it was the people who didn’t see or hear the truck coming that was the problem.
Now, I know you’ve seen and heard fire trucks. You know how big they are. How brightly red they are (in most places, yellow in others, even lime green in some places). And how loud they are. Especially when the driver hits the air horn!
I’ll never forget going to an automobile accident one day. I’m driving the big, red, loud fire truck. We’re doing about 60 MPH or so. Down the road, I see a car going very slow. I also can see the driver is moving and grooving to the music she is listening to. And, I also can tell, she has no idea the fire truck is coming up behind her, responding to an emergency call. So, I slow down, my partner in the passenger seat begins going through the various sounds we had on the siren. Some loud. Some really loud. And some almost deafening loud. Yet, she was still unaffected by the fire truck and I couldn’t pass her on the road. She was enjoying her music. And, she was about to be run over by the big, red, loud fire truck with me driving.
So, what should I do? I couldn’t stay behind her for the next three miles, going 35 miles an hour. Well, I did what any good driver would do, I laid my foot down on the air horn and let her rip! Well, the female driver just about come out of the hard-topped roof of her car. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stop and help her out of the ditch or anything, but I got the feeling after that experience that she would pay more attention in the future about what was happening behind her!
Well, those days may soon be over for firemen and ambulance drivers. If the story out of Oklahoma catches on.
Soon, even if you can’t hear the siren, you’ll be able to feel when an emergency vehicle is coming. Oklahoma’s largest ambulance company will become the first ambulance service in the nation to outfit its entire fleet with new Howler sirens, designed to emit low-frequency tones that penetrate objects within 200 feet—such as cars—to alert drivers.
The Emergency Medical Services Authority has equipped one ambulance with the new siren and plans to have them installed on all 77 units in Oklahoma within six months. Officials say the sirens are ideal for cutting through a sea of traffic, and give emergency responders another tool to let drivers know an ambulance is heading their way.
So far this year, EMSA vehicles have been involved in 16 intersection accidents, typically caused by an unyielding driver. Fifteen of those times, the ambulances were on a call, said EMSA spokeswoman Tina Wells.
“The most frequent thing motorists say to us is they didn’t see the ambulance coming,” Wells said.
During a demonstration of the new product, two ambulances were parked near each other. A plastic stepladder with three glasses of liquid on top was placed in between the vehicles. The ambulance without the Howler sounded its siren and produced its familiar wail. Then, the Howler, which produced booms that sounded like a 1980s video game played at an earsplitting level. The liquids in the three glasses rippled. Wells jokingly said the new sirens sounded like “a vacuum cleaner on steroids.”
“It’s going to make going through intersections much safer,” said Tulsa Police Officer Mike Avey, who has worked traffic accidents. “People are on their cell phones, people have $1,000 sound systems. You’re going to feel it.”
The new sirens cost less than $400 each, meaning the entire EMSA fleet can be outfitted for less than $40,000, Wells said. “A moderate accident is going to cost $15,000 in body damage alone,” Wells said. “We see the potential for recouping this almost immediately.”
From me! Wow! If I could only be driving one of those things! Now, having just taken a ride in an ambulance last month, I’m thankful for this new technology. Maybe a few minutes of transport time will be shaved off and lives will be saved!
Have you checked your rearview mirror lately?