Sirens and Noise Pollution
Sirens are a common presence in modern life, particularly in built up areas such as city centres. They are designed to be heard, either to scare people or animals away or to alert a person to the presence of something such as an approaching emergency services vehicle. Because they are intended to be heard some distance away they are often loud and consequently have the potential to damage the hearing of those nearby.
Disruption to Sleep in Cities
Although the emergency services will try to avoid using sirens during the nights and early hours of the morning, relying on the flashing lights to draw driver's attention to them, there will still be times when they will have no choice, particularly in a built-up city which will still be busy and have some congestion even during the middle of the night. This noise can affect the sleeping patterns of residents living in the city which can be a large number of individuals in big flat/apartment complexes. This disturbance can have effects on the psychological health and wellbeing of these residents therefore, causing problems such as fatigue, increased stress levels, raised blood pressure and altered mood/behaviour. It is for this reason that noise will be mentioned on health and safety training courses which incorporate elements of psychological health and wellbeing on them such as the NEBOSH General Certificate which has a unit dedicated to physical and psychological health on the syllabus.
What Can Be Done?
Actions and precautions which can be taken vary upon the specific sirens in question. Whilst it would not be practical to ask or expect emergency services not to use sirens at night, residents can install greater soundproofing to windows such as double or even triple glazing which will keep more sound out of the room.
As far as other alarms and sirens are concerned, there is not a great deal that individuals can do as they are designed to warn people, so if they need to be alerted then the siren will sound, and they need to be loud to achieve this objective and ensure there are not people in the building who have not heard the alarm. Although certain actions can be taken like wearing ear protection when testing fire and smoke alarms for example, often people will have little choice than to suffer from a loud alarm or siren if a situation arises which causes it to sound. In an emergency, the effect on their hearing may be the least of their concerns at that moment in time!