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To the Editor
November 16, 1997
To The Editor
The Home News and Tribune
To The Editor,
Exposure to loud noise causes physiological, biochemical and psychological
alterations in healthy humans, all of which can be reproducibly demonstrated
in the laboratory and in the field. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry uses
loud noise to elicit the stress response when testing stress-relief drugs.
Alexis Herman's letter "Fire-horn foes make unnecessary noise" (Nov. 16),
reflects the attitude that the public benefit of volunteer emergency squads
should outweigh the long-term public health impact of their use of an
unnecessary and antiquated technology.
First let me state that I honor those citizens who are willing to risk
grievous bodily injury and possibly death in the pursuit of helping their
neighbors. If there is a more selfless and courageous act than being a fire
fighter, I can't think of it. However, it is more than a bit paradoxical that
these same people, who will risk their life to save yours, are apparently not
concerned that their day-to-day operations may reasonably be interpreted as a
public health nuisance for their immediate neighbors.
In New Jersey, emergency sirens are found on top of schools, and on
firehouses adjacent to school yards, playgrounds and countless houses. The
look of intense terror in the face of a child holding his/her ears is not one
that is easily forgotten. There are parents across this state who routinely
have to calm their children who have been awakened from a sound sleep
screaming in fear. If these people want to protect their children, I do not
believe that they are "insensitive" or unappreciative as Herman states.
Taxpayers should also be concerned that valuable and expensive classroom time
is lost when a student's train of thought is derailed by these sirens.
Employers should be concerned that worker productivity decreases as a result
of sleep interruption. Health care workers know that stress can exacerbate
pre-existing diseases and directly cause others.
More than half of the emergency squads across the state now use electronic
non-audible alert systems, such as pagers, beepers, etc. I live 700 feet from
the Somerset Volunteer Fire House, and have never been awakened, nor have I
ever had to cup my hands over my children's' ears as they play in the yard.
I thank them here in print and also every year in the donations envelope.
All across the state, in communities of every conceivable distribution and
topography, emergency sirens have been retired, with no apparent reduction in
Rather than adopt an adversarial attitude, protecting traditional methods,
all parties should come to the table for some good old fashioned complaint
resolution. Demonizing the other side is quite counter-productive. Solutions
should be discussed, and concrete plans for implementing them should be
outlined. If a fire squad sent around a donation envelope stating that they
need extra funds to purchase the state-of-the-art electronic alert system, my
guess is that the community response to this sort of cooperative approach
would surprise them. Maybe the anti-siren petitioners could now go door to
door for these donations rather than signatures. Everyone's involved,
everyone's a partner, and the result would be a healthier, better rested
Eric M. Zwerling,
77 4th St.
Somerset, NJ 08873
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