Sound of Silence: Surf City Axes Overnight Fire Siren Use

Sep 19, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

For as long as some people can remember, the Surf City Volunteer Fire Co. and EMS have sounded a siren to alert volunteers of any number of emergency situations in the borough and across the Island that needed their expertise. With a strike of the pen, borough officials agreed to let modern-day technology do the work – at least between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“Most of the volunteers are home overnight and have access to their phones and pagers,” said Peter Hartney, a councilman and president of the fire company.

Dispatching any emergency call comes from the county, which sends all the information to volunteers via an email to pagers and cell phones. Surf City shares the cost of having the latest technology with other emergency service organizations on the barrier island.

The sounding of the siren has been a bone of contention for years among residents and visitors, some in favor of keeping it but mostly people upset by the noise of the siren. Officials said borough employees were inundated this summer with calls from people disturbed by the siren going off in the overnight hours.

Still, there was a lot of consideration taken before the decision was made to silence the siren overnight, including a meeting with Mayor Frances Hodgson, according to Councilman James Russell, also a member of the fire company. Also, in addition to most volunteer members being available overnight, there is a dedicated night crew of one driver and two EMTS for all calls, Russell said.

He also noted the council agreed to reduce the alert rings from five per emergency to three during the daytime hours, Russell said. The cost of reducing the alert signals is $500, Russell said, noting it’s not as easy as just flipping a switch. It requires an electrician that specializes in that kind of work.

The siren, according to officials, will continue to alert volunteers during the day when many are not in a place, due to work or driving, to read a message on their phone or pager.

— Gina G. Scala

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