A day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear some type of siren. It is something that is a fact of city life and especially understandable living two blocks from one of the area’s trauma centers.

But it has been some time since I have been as up close and personal to a siren, or sirens I should say, as when I went for a walk this morning. I was walking down Ashley Avenue when an EMS supervisor came ripping down the street behind me and zipped on past me. He went a couple of blocks and turned off his siren. But as the vehicle and its siren was going by I thought my ears would bleed.

When I walked down a street and started back in the opposite direction on Long Avenue a couple of minutes later history repeated itself. Only this time, the EMS supervisor was going in the opposite direction (the same direction as I was walking) and he was followed by a fire department supervisor. Both had their sirens blazing.

Now, I certainly am not complaining. I used to be a firefighter and EMT, and I have used probably more than my share of siren warnings. It is one of the things you have in your tool kit to maybe keep oncoming traffic from running you over and leaving you for roadkill.

But a lot of debate exists over just how effective sirens and emergency lights are. I had a Texas state trooper who taught emergency driving in my EMT class who said he never used warning lights nor sirens when responding to an emergency. His rationale was no one paid attention to them anyway.

I remember emergency driving experiences in which I used a siren, an air horn and warning lights on my fire truck. And still I would have people in front of me who were totally clueless that I was behind them. Sometimes I would take the big spotlight mounted just forward of the door and flash it quickly in their rearview mirror. That usually got their attention.

Once you get away from riding in vehicles using sirens though they eventually become part of the background. That is until today. I forgot just how loud those things are.

I also don’t know if I suffered any hearing loss from my days in emergency vehicles. Sirens put out upwards of 120 decibels and anything over 80-85 decibels for sustained periods can cause hearing loss, from what I have read. Add to that being on a warship that would shoot its cannons, along with all the loud music I have listened to over the years and I guess it’s amazing I can hear at all.

But I wouldn’t trade an absence of all that noise for the experiences I got with it. Besides, some of that music just doesn’t sound very good unless it is LOUD!!!

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