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Oklahoma Ambulances Debut Sirens That You Can Feel 128

djupedal writes "Booming like a 1980s video game, the Howler can even make liquids ripple — Oklahoma's largest ambulance company will become the first ambulance service in the nation to outfit its entire fleet with new Howler sirens, designed to emit low-frequency tones that penetrate objects within 200 feet — such as cars — to alert drivers." This is all well and fine, but I wonder what they plan to do when their sirens call up one of the big worms from deep below?


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Oklahoma Ambulances Debut Sirens That You Can Feel

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:39PM (#25750071) Homepage Journal
    They're bringing change you can feel.

    Oh, wait that was Oklahoma?
  • Obligatory link (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:39PM (#25750083)

    This is amazing if you think about it, because by this point I could nearly feel the pressure waves of sound coming from that siren. I have no idea what the decibel rating of a modern siren is, but it must be huge. Which makes sense, given that the sound of the siren has to penetrate the cabin of modern, sound-proof automobiles and overpower the sound of unmuffled Harleys. But the fact that I was having to hold my ears to avoid deafness, while cars were moving into the intesection oblivious to the siren's sound, shows that we have reached the end of siren technology. It is time to think of a better solution. Sirens cannot get any lounder without causing local earthquakes. Sound waves simply are not the answer.

    http://sadtech.blogspot.com/2006/01/sirens.html [blogspot.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Andr T. ( 1006215 )
      This sounds like a Shampoo description. Was this siren invented by Shampoo?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The siren head on my ambulance says "up to 120 db".

      A nearby PD has started using a similar product, called Rumblers, but I haven't heard much about any successes or failures. I would like to get some for my ambulance, cause people just don't pay enough attention.
      Either that, or a microwave emitter. If you don't get out of my way, I'll cook you... that would be awesome.


      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by eleuthero ( 812560 )
        Either that, or a microwave emitter. If you don't get out of my way, I'll cook you... that would be awesome.

        it would also ensure ongoing business for you provided you turned it off in time.
      • by Lijemo ( 740145 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @06:06PM (#25753557)

        A nearby PD has started using a similar product, called Rumblers, but I haven't heard much about any successes or failures. I would like to get some for my ambulance, cause people just don't pay enough attention.

        A couple of years ago, I was walking up to an intersection in Boston. A fire truck was driving up to the intersection with lights on, no siren yet.As the drivers stopped at the intersection glanced in their rear-view mirrors, their expressions seemed to say: "grumble, grumble, he's about to turn that siren on and make us get out of the way, isn't he? Grumble, grumble. I guess I'll start getting ready...sigh..."

        But instead of a standard siren, the truck started blasting Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" at full volume. It was awesome-- I thought it was FAR more intimidating-sounding than a siren would have been, and apparently the drivers stopped at the intersection agreed-- their expressions all changed to "Holy crap! Get me out of the way of that thing!". And scramble, they did.

        You had to be there to get the full effect, I think. Re-reading what I just wrote doesn't capture it at all. But in person, it was just... damn. Especially since it was so unexpected. I was grinning about it all afternoon. So perhaps a well-chosen CD collection for your ambulance?

    • I need one of those under my bed.

      "Yeah baby. Feel that. That's my Love Sonar. You can't hide from my love".

      I need somethin', that's for sure.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I have no idea what the decibel rating of a modern siren is

      Not very damned loud at all. Sometimes "progress" goes backwards.

      On March 12, 2006 two tornados [wikipedia.org] blew down quite a bit of Springfield's infrastructure, power was out city-wide. Later that night the sirens should have gone off again, but they couldn't, as the power was off.

      In the aftermath, the cartoons in the city government (incling the guy who runs the power company [sj-r.com], alderman Simpson, [google.com] and Mayor Quim... er, Davlin) [springfield.il.us] decided to get some new high tech

    • That's why they use bright, flashing lights at the same time. :-)

  • Oklahoma Ambulance siren sued for sexual harassment.
  • They can just mount all those old Federal Thunderbolt sirens to the ambulances.
    They only weigh... what? couple hundred pounds? Not including mompressor?
    I miss the sound of Federal Thunderbolts. I hate the tornado sirens around here.
    (How picky is that?)
  • I wonder how disruptive this is, especially for sensitive situations like evacuations due to explosives, etc.
    • Re:bomb squad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aphoxema ( 1088507 ) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:44PM (#25750161) Homepage Journal

      Or the even more sensitive situation of having already soundproofed a room at great expense on a popular street so your baby can get some damned sleep.

      • Re:bomb squad (Score:5, Informative)

        by philspear ( 1142299 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:05PM (#25750501)

        As someone who was effectively trained to only sleep in quiet situations like that, I have to say for the love of god, turn a TV on, vaccum while it's sleeping, poke it from time to time! It's HORRIBLE! When the neighbors are playing their TV with the subwoofer on, I toss and turn trying to think up ways to drown it out. If my wife is watching TV in the next room, forget about sleeping. Don't do that to your kid!

        • I feel for you man, that sucks. I was exactly the opposite. When I was a babe, my dad was in a rock band that played live in bars, and my mom would often go to the shows, taking me with her since they couldn't afford a sitter. I would literally sleep on the bar while the band played several times a week for years.

          To this day, I can sleep fucking anywhere.

          • Actually, this doesn't effect me, but I do know someone else who just did this a couple houses down from me because they bought their house years before a fire station was built just a little ways away from us.

            Their child wouldn't go back to sleep all night after the firetrucks came by so they spent over 10k (if I remember correctly) getting the room they slept in soundproofed. He even spent another few hundred on some fancy white noise machine.

            With all this money, though, I'd think he'd just think to move

            • Box fan FTW!

              • That's what I grew up with! Unfortunately now that I've moved to the very cold midwest, it's not such a comforting thing sometimes.

                • I also require a box fan every night, it's such a waste, I have to put it pointed at the wall at the foot of my bed. It's either run a fan pointlessly or start taking sedatives. Thanks a lot, mom.

                  • Now I'm thinking of getting an overpriced noisemaker, myself...

                    • Did some quick calculations, and running a box fan for 9 hours a night every single night would cost about $22/year to run. That's assuming it pull 60W and $0.11/kWh, which seems about right if it's not on "super-high-blow-you-across-the-room" setting.

                      Those fancy noisemakers suck, for me anyway. You don't get the "bass" component like you get from a fan, it's all high-frequency nastiness. Plus I like (a little) airflow.

                    • I had been wondering about how much that was costing me, but never bothered, thanks! Someone should really make some white noise machine with decent subwoofers, I agree, the ones I've seen had speakers you wouldn't put on a radio, and it's the deep sounds that are impossible to muffle with a pillow or earplugs. I have my fan at the foot of the bed so the vibrations are transfered more directly to the frame and cancel out my neighbor's woofer, that helps a bit.

                    • Wow, now I have a justification for only sleeping 6 hours a night: I'm saving money!
              • Same here. I have to have a fan on to sleep well. But not because of noise, because of silence. I need white noise to sleep. I can't sleep in absolute silence.

                I used to live 20 feet from train tracks. On the other side of the tracks were a parking lot and a baseball field (college). Fighter jets often flew low altitude bombing runs (or something) right over me. Not too mention yelling drunk college kids. I could sleep fine through all of that...but a silent room kills me.
          • that. is. awesome. I can just imagine guys trying to pick up your mom -
            Guy: Hey can I buy you a drink.
            Your mom: *points at baby on bar* That's my kid.
            Guy: ...?
            • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:09PM (#25751681) Homepage

              that. is. awesome. I can just imagine guys trying to pick up your mom -
              Guy: Hey can I buy you a drink.
              Your mom: *points at baby on bar* That's my kid.
              Guy: ...?

              Ha ha! I never thought of that, and yeah, that probably worked better than the other option.

              Guy: Hey can I buy you a drink.
              My mom: I'm married.
              Guy: Yeah? Where's your husband?
              My mom: He's on stage.
              Guy: Oh. *starts to back off, but then thinks* Wait, which one?
              My mom: The drummer.
              Guy: Ah. So... can I buy you a drink?

          • by xgr3gx ( 1068984 )
            Best advice my wife and I ever got. Put the baby to sleep and don't tiptoe around.
            We can turn on the lights and tv, and talk at normal volumes and she won't stir.
            The dog can even shake off, jingling his collar and tags, causing his ears to flap loudly, and finally whipping his tail into the side of the crib making a loud thud.
            Nothing from the baby, ha.
            • by grimarr ( 223895 )

              Yeah, that does make life easier for the parents, and maybe for the kids, too.

              But there may be a drawback, too. My kids are in their late teens now, and they seem to need lots of noise to sleep. It's common for them to have the playstation on, or a DVD on the menu screen, and the stereo playing all night. And my son routinely sleeps through almost any alarm clock, telephone, whatever.

              So maybe a little white noise is good, housework noise OK, but don't train them to sleep through rock concerts. They'll n

              • by Lijemo ( 740145 )
                If you can't wake up in the morning, it means that you're not getting enough sleep (either that or some sort of narcoleptic disorder, but sleep deprivation is much more common). The answer is adjusting the sleep schedule, not finding ways to more effectively deprive your body of something that it needs to function.
                • You get used to waking up at a certain time. Even if you don't get enough sleep, you'll still wake up at the usual time unless you're extremely sleep-deprived already.

                  However, if for some reason you need to wake up earlier, you'll be in trouble if your alarm can't wake you up.

              • by ryanov ( 193048 )

                Honestly, I don't understand these people. I have some friends who I've heard say "I need to have this noise on to sleep." Umm, no you don't. Get no sleep for 2-3 nights in a row and I think it'll clear you up pretty quick. Sorta like people who say "my dog won't eat that food." You better believe it will when it gets hungry.

                Seriously, are we so pampered that we don't even try to adjust anymore? If I left a TV on all night, my parents would have told me to turn it off or pay the electric bill. There was no

        • I'm with you. I grew up in the country and now live in the city. The slightest unusual noise and I'm awake. Thankfully both my kids can sleep through most noises, but this siren would probably be disturbing enough to wake them up, crying.

          I hope this idea fails. The solution to blissed-out drivers is not to be louder and more annoying than them. I think the solution is to set power limits on stereo equipment, set limits on cell phone use and make drivers take tests every 5 years or so when they renew their

  • Quite a show (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Onaga ( 1369777 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:42PM (#25750131)

    Just imagine a bunch of cars all parked tightly on a nice street. Now imagine half of them chiming in with their own sirens when their shock sensors get set off.

    • by Adriax ( 746043 )

      Imagine it? Try being anywhere within 5 miles of disneyland when they do their nightly fireworks show.
      Even better, be in their parking structure. 70+ cars per level going off with a concrete ceiling to channel the sound.

    • I don't suppose you have ever watched a low-rider with loud mufflers drive by that same row of cars? It actually happens.
      • by Lijemo ( 740145 )
        I lived near Fenway Park during the 2004 world series. You know the flyover with the supersonic jets that they did during the opening ceremonies for the series? Um, yeah. Huge boom, windows of my apartment rattling like there had been an explosion, every car alarm on the street went off simultaneously, every dog on the block started freaking out at the same time. People sticking their heads out windows or standing on the sidewalk looking around trying to figure out what the fsck just happened.
  • This is a lot more interesting than most of the stuff that gets posted to Idle.

    Anyways, from TFA:

    "The ambulance without the Howler sounded its siren and produced its familiar wail. Then, the Howler, which produced booms that sounded like a 1980s video game played at an earsplitting level. The liquids in the three glasses rippled."

    I really hope that the howler is used sparingly, especially since I live right off a busy street and get some type of emergency vehicle coming by with sirens and lights at least once a day. I especially hope that the howler siren doesn't need to be played at an "earsplitting" level in order to be effective.

    They had to park two ambulances next to each other with the glasses of water in between, and turnin

  • > The most frequent thing motorists say to us is they didn't see the ambulance coming

    OK, but what about hearing the ambulances? I think the real problem here - stupidity - won't be solved by the new sirens. And what about the seismometers?

    • I think a better solution: Receivers in cars that can be triggered by emergency vehicles. Light starts pulsing when nearby, to clue the driver into looking around or turning their music down to hear.

      Sure, it would be spoofable, but since all it does is light up a caution light... what's the real harm? I would say the gains would be worth it.

    • You'd be amazed. Every dozen calls or so, I'll get behind someone who doesn't see the big farking firetruck or ambulance behind them, despite the lights & siren going full blast. Or they'll see you, and not do ANYTHING different; not move over, not speed up, nothing. A couple times people have just dead stopped, right in traffic, right in front of me. They go into dummy-mode. The Sheriff's Department is more than happy to take vehicle and plate information and send out "interference with an emergen
  • from TFA:

    So far this year, EMSA vehicles have been involved in 16 intersection accidents, typically caused by an unyielding driver. Fifteen of those times, the ambulances were on a call, said EMSA spokeswoman Tina Wells.

    16 in a year is nothing. If the Howler is as loud as they say, watch this number go up as motorists cover their ears or have heart attacks while driving.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That 's 16 accidents where the ambulance was one of the vehicles in the accident.

    • I can't wait for the mysterious rise in physical ailments and deafness.
  • I always thought that emergency vehicles should be equipped with a method of sending a signal that would be picked up by the automobiles on the road and provide an in-car cue that "hey, pay attention stupid--there's an ambulance!".
    Of course, there are privacy concerns (I guess) and people never want to be inconvenienced, so I'm sure the idea would flop. But to me, that seems like a good solution. I would say 99% of the time that the siren isn't heard is because music is on/too loud.
  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <lk_digitus&hotmail,com> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:51PM (#25750291) Homepage
    This ambulance goes to 11!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    >This is all well and fine, but I wonder what they plan to do when their sirens call up one of the big worms from deep below?

    You moron, that only happens in the open desert. If you stay in the spaceports and behind the shield walls you'll never have any problems. Of course, if you're a spice miner or you pilot a carryall, well, that's a different story....

  • I doubt it will help hear over a ghetto blaster car stereo. I still think more blinky lights, lasers, searchlights, etc. are a better option.

  • With all the idiots with 2000 watt power amps installed in their vehicles, I doubt they will even be heard at all. I can hear most cars in the neighborhood several blocks away, clearly.

  • ...when somebody claims it caused a miscarriage.

  • Visual Cues (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VoxMagis ( 1036530 ) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:17PM (#25750705)

    I ride a motorcycle, so I have come to the opinion that 90% of the drivers out there in their 'shiny metal boxes' are idiots.

    I've come to the decision that all cars should be equipped with a flashing light on the dashboard or the steering wheel - RIGHT in front of the drivers face - that triggers whenever an emergency vehicle with lights/sirens is within a certain distance. In most urban areas now, emergency vehicles are equipped with signal devices that trigger traffic lights for them. Why not apply the same reaction to inside warning lights for the cars? Shoot - turn off their sound systems at the same time.

    In the USA, we over-regulate vehicle safety standards already, to the point of goofiness, why not go ahead and add one more? One that actually has the potential to save lives?

    • Directionality (Score:2, Insightful)

      by schwaang ( 667808 )

      Actually add one more feature - directionality. Half the time when I hear a siren I can't tell where it's coming from. In France I can tell whether it's coming towards me or going away, and it's a big improvement.

      As a sometimes cyclist of the motored and non-motored kind, as well as being a car driver, I've been on both sides of near accidents, so I have both bike-rage and "oops, I didn't see you" guilt. I think it would be great if motorcycles constantly emitted some kind of "I'm passing on your left, s

      • Expanding on the directionality idea...
        The emergency vehicle could just broadcast it's GPS coordinates on some dead-simple system like the NIST time signal. Then in car GPS receivers could display the emergency vehicle on their map. Even turning themselves on if needed. This would also cut down on fakers.

    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      Because just like those traffic light things everyone else will be able to use them as well so tons of people will abuse them. I'd give it a couple months before most motorists rip the damn things out of their cars in frustration of having it go off every day.

    • I ride a motorcycle, so I have come to the opinion that 90% of the drivers out there in their 'shiny metal boxes' are idiots.

      Newsflash: 90% of everyone are idiots, correlation to automobile ownership is not statistically significant.

    • by laugau ( 144794 )


      I ride a bike and drive in a shiny box. The problem isn't the car... it is the congestion and the fact that there is already so much noise that we HAVE to soundproof the car. I was in traffic 2 weeks ago, radio off, and a firetruck came up behind me in an intersection with lights on and siren off because of noise ordinances. How crazy is that?

      The issue is people who think they have more rights than anyone else. (i.e don't infringe on my rights, man! I don't want to hear people around me, turn down m

    • by lacheur ( 588045 )
      I drive a car, and have come to the opinion that 90% of motorcycle riders are idiots. I feel where you're coming from, car drivers can be oblivious, but at least they're not weaving through traffic on a crotch rocket going 30mph faster than the traffic flow. I'll agree that most drivers are bad (except for me, natch ;), but the average car isn't driving nearly so aggressively and dangerously as the average bike.
      Motorcycle riders all seem to share this idea that drivers (except them, natch!) are all terri
  • by Zymergy ( 803632 ) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:26PM (#25750861)
    http://www.whelen.com/details_prod.php?head_id=9&cat_id=68&prod_id=415 [whelen.com]
    Now I am wondering how to get one of these and tie it into my passenger car horn...
    Horns are NOT what they used to be...
  • Is this REALLY necessary? These monstrosities are going to structurally damage buildings just for that one or two times a year when someone might not here and ambulance coming?
  • Any word on what those penetrating low frequencies will do to hard drives?

    • Probably nothing that the sub in your home theater system or the subs in your neighbor kid's trunk don't already do.
  • sickening? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by baomike ( 143457 )

    It is well known that low freq sound can cause illness. Nausea and general sense of illbeing.

    The paramedics arrive to too sick to function?

    • Then there's the legendary "Brown Note." I'll leave the practical advantages and disadvantages of a "Brown Siren" to your imagination.
    • Mythbusters already covered this quite some time ago. After pumping some serious decibels into the participants at various frequencies, without any results, they declared the "brown note" as busted.
  • Our ambulance is outfitted with just a regular Whelen siren, but we've considered airhorns in the past (real airhorns, not the fake electronic crap on the siren. Turns out people move if you sound like a train).

    I even read about this particular siren last year, in the Whelen magazine we get every month or so. It looks like a bass amplifier with some nice subwoofers, for what it's worth.

    In any case, we're in northeast NJ. Traffic sucks, drivers suck, and people do stupid shit all the time. An airhorn would b

    • It's not the wild west here in Oklahoma, lol.

      I think a lot of people have this perception that there is nothing in Oklahoma but fields and cows.

      We may not be jam packed border to border, but our major cities are just as populated as any other state.
      • There are approximately 50 people per square mile in OK, and 1000/mi^2 in NJ. I'm not trying to dis your state, but there's a much more consistent problem with moving people out of the way in NJ - especially northeast NJ (near Newark, etc)

        And I'd wager that there are far worse drivers in NJ... I've literally been cut off before (lights and siren) while pulling out of the fucking bay, right in front of the police station. They then proceeded to stop at the stop sign because of oncoming traffic... which we co

        • by ryanov ( 193048 )

          I work on a hospital campus in Newark and see a lot of the ambulances. I think the people who drive in this city have less respect for ambulances than anywhere I've ever been. Perhaps it has changed in the last few years and this just happens to be where I've been. I still pull to the side of the road, like the driver's manual says. I think I'm by myself.

    • There is a company that make super loud horns (150dB). Google "super loud horn" and see all the things that turn up.
  • The problem is that when most people hear a siren they freeze. It's the same as in the military. When the explosions start most people freeze. Even with trained troops a large percentage act like a deer in the headlights. It's as instinctual as with the deer and it's a halmark of a lot of social animals. Personally I would use a recording of an authoritative voice and flashing spotlights designed to shine on individual cars in the way.

  • This sounds similar to the Federal Signal Rumbler system, which supplements existing sirens on a police car, and works like a subwoofer.

    The Rumber has been available for quite a while now.

  • I was holding out for Sirens that could feel me .
  • Here in Europe, emergency services are experimenting with RDS.
    The TA and TP functions can switch a car stereo from whatever source it's playing to a specific radio channel. This is currently used for traffic announcements, but if you put a transmitter in an emergency vehicle it would be able to alert the cars around it without having to resort to earthshattering noise.

  • So much for my holography lab!

Happiness is twin floppies.