For the people and properties that they save, firefighters willingly get close to fire. It’s an occupational hazard and they’ve accepted the dangers associated with it. The blaring sirens that are slowly taking their toll on their ear drums, however, shouldn’t have to be one other job hazard.
Firemen across the USA are now complaining about loss of hearing, blaming the sirens installed on their fire trucks as the cause. As a response, legal firms in cities like New York are also looking into the issue. They hope to find liabilities and seek compensation for affected firemen and women.
Sirens in fire trucks ensure the safety of both firemen and the public. The sounds they make warn the traffic of an incoming emergency vehicle and signals cars to start making way. The loud noise is also for pedestrians. It reminds them to stay alert and to get off the road — and the way of the emergency vehicle — as soon as possible.
Fire sirens or whistles can emit sounds rated 120 decibels. This level of loudness is similar to what you would hear at the front row of rock concerts. As many firemen execute as much as 7,000 runs a year, they would have to stand the deafening noise again and again.
Firemen feel the effects mainly in two ways: loss of hearing and tinnitus. Loss of hearing is losing sensitivity to sounds, especially on the high-pitch end of the spectrum. Tinnitus, meanwhile, can be worse. It is an infuriating disorder where a constant ringing plagues the ears.
Legal actions target manufacturers of these sirens, sparing the government branches that purchased them. That the sirens were not built with firemen’s safety as top priority is the case’s main argument. Directional shields should have joined the siren design. These can reroute the strongest sound waves away from the vehicle.
There is also a lack of standards for the firefighting industry. Average decibel requirements often fit operations like manufacturing, for instance. These do not apply to firemen where on-the-job noise levels vary dramatically.
Firefighters, brave men and women who risk their lives in order to save the lives of others, are on a quest for compensation. Earplugs attached to fire suits, better sirens, and other more reliable solutions should follow soon.