BOSTON (CBS) – Thousands of firefighters across the country are suing a company that makes sirens claiming the noise has caused permanent hearing damage. Now more than 300 firefighters from Boston are joining the group and preparing to file suit.
The firefighters’ attorneys say the sirens made by Illinois based Federal Signal have a volume and pitch that is “unreasonably dangerous.” They also say the company could have made sirens that directed noise away from areas of the truck where firefighters sit. In addition to the Boston firefighters, the attorneys also represent more than 4000 firefighters from New York, Philadelphia and other cities.
Bill Meyer, who retired five years ago from the Boston Fire Department says the sirens contributed to his hearing loss.
“They’re completely blasted in your ears and your face and you wince. As you get older, you wince at the noise.”
He believes the company could develop an alternative that’s safer for firefighters’ ears.
“It’s up to the companies that manufacture these sirens to work on it. They are tremendously loud,” Meyer said.
Federal Signal is the largest siren maker in the country. They defend the product and sent this statement to WBZ.
“The claims by the plaintiff attorneys that sirens are too loud and should be more directive don’t make sense. Firefighters have testified that they want a loud siren that projects its sound to the front and sides of fire trucks to alert other drivers and pedestrians of their approach. Statistics show that a significant number of fatal accidents involving emergency vehicles occur on the sides of the vehicles. Restricting the full sound range of sirens increases the risk of accidents by reducing the warning sound to the sides of fire trucks. This reduction puts firefighters and the public at greater risk, particularly at intersections. If there is any risk of hearing loss from siren noise or other noises in the fire service, of which there are many, for three decades firefighting organizations have required and advocated the use of hearing protection to protect against noise exposure from all sources.”
Rich Paris of the Boston Firefighters Union says his members have undergone hearing testing over the past several years. Many of them have found their hearing levels deteriorating.
“This is a serious issue,” he told WBZ. “This is not made up.”
He understands the need for loud sirens, but hopes a better alternative will emerge.
“You have to have it loud to warn the people, but you also have to protect the firefighters,” Paris said.