Firefighters Suing Siren Manufacturer — Unfocused Blare Is Turning Them Deaf?

Firefighters are suing the manufacturers of sirens. They claim that the sirens, which sit and blare atop their fire trucks, are turning them deaf.

Firefighters from the New Jersey and New York City area are suing the manufacturers of sirens that are affixed atop fire trucks. Over 4,000 firefighters have banded together to complain that the sirens are causing hearing loss. The lawsuit alleges that the excessive loudness and pitch of the sirens has been steadily deteriorating their hearing. According to New Jersey, about 34 current and former firefighters are suing fire truck manufacturers and a siren maker.

The complaint alleges that the noise from the emergency vehicles’ sirens is causing irreversible loss of hearing. One of the complaints, Richard Mikutsky, a New Jersey fire captain and vice president of the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, said the following while pointing to one of his ears.

“This ear, I can’t hear anything out of it anymore. I blame those sirens. They should have tested them. It’s a loud annoying sound — it cringes in your body.”

Mikutsky isn’t a rookie firefighter. He’s a 30-year New Jersey veteran firefighter. The experienced firefighter now has to wear a hearing aid to do his job. He claims that it was fire truck siren made by Federal Signal that was responsible for damaging his hearing. He noted that besides the high decibel level, it was the pitch of the siren that was responsible for blowing out his hearing.

The firefighters who have filed the lawsuit claimed they suffered permanent hearing injuries from sirens on fire vehicles. Incidentally, the case has moved from state Superior Court to federal court, and any judgment announced by the court could have a strong bearing on firefighters across the United States. The lawsuit claims the following.

“The sirens at issue emit intense noise levels, which, over time, are capable of causing permanent injury to human hearing.”

The lawsuit adds that the manufacturers failed to test and develop crew cabs or install after-market modifications that would allow for safer sound levels that didn’t harm the occupants of the fire trucks. The suit also claims that Federal Signal Corp. knew that the sirens were “inherently dangerous” and would be potentially damaging to a human’s hearing over long term exposure, but still failed to develop a safe product.

Active and inactive firefighters including employees from eight New Jersey towns are among the 4,400 firefighters who jointly feel the sirens are way too loud than necessary. All of these firefighters are in the various stages of filing financial claims. Each firefighter is seeking $150,000 in damages. They have additionally demanded Federal Signal officials install a muffler on the siren, thereby limiting the spread. Directional mufflers are a huge help to firefighters sitting inside the fire truck because the blare is directed outward, away from the men.

Moreover, they claim the unfocused blare hits their eardrums at an unnecessary level, damaging their hearing. The lawsuit has been filed against siren manufacturer Federal Signal Corp. and vehicle and apparatus makers American LaFrance, Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Mack Trucks, Pierce Manufacturing, and Seagrave Fire Apparatus, reported Fire Rescue 1.

It is not immediately clear if the sirens, made by any of these manufacturers, have any setting for volume and pitch. Sirens have typically been made to sound distinctive from those of mounted on police cruisers and ambulances. Moreover, mounting height varies greatly across the vehicle types. Fire trucks usually have the siren mounted in the grill or bumper. While the mounting position allows the spread to be wide, it also causes a lot of the noise to enter the vehicle, forcing the firefighters to constantly hear the blaring siren.

The sirens, reaching 120 decibels, are indeed quite loud. Firefighters who are suing the siren manufacturers claim they could have at least designed them in a way that directs the volume away from areas where firefighters sit in the engines, reported the Augusta Chronicle.

[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]