Bucks County town wants 'disruptive' fire siren replaced with alert system
PHILADELPHIA - The fire siren at Langhorne-Middletown Fire Station doesn't sound often, but when it does, the whole community knows.
The volunteer fire station located in a rural Bucks County suburb averages less than two calls per day, and received less than 650 last year.
"The only time that siren blows is when somebody calls 911, so we're not blowing it for the heck of it," Fire Chief Frank Ferry told FOX 29's Hank Flynn.
Still, a growing number of community members have called for the "disruptive" siren to be removed in favor of a more advanced alert platform.
"It's a quiet town, it's like Mayberry here, and the siren is disruptive," Councilmember Scott Haldeman said. "I took a couple of years to investigate all these other fire departments and spoke with them, and they shut it off because they say it's not needed, so why is it needed here?"
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A 2019 report found that 60% of firehouses in Bucks County still used sirens. Chief Ferry, who is also a state senator, says low volunteer numbers mean the department can't risk responding to a life-threatening call down a member.
"Some departments are more flush with staffing than we are, and can afford for a member to miss a call," Chief Ferry said. "We are at the point where we can't afford for a member to miss a call because of staffing."
Likewise, Fire Consultant Gary Ludwig says fire sirens have stood the test of time and are not vulnerable to technology failures like new-aged alert system.
"We are subject to technology failures, and when technology fails, at least you have the outdoor siren," Ludwig said. "You have to have redundant systems, redundant systems have to be in place to notify people."
A petition from community members fed up with the noise has collected over 200 signatures. Councilmember Haldeman called removing the siren a "high priority," and argued that it's noise impacts quality of life and has impacted property values.
Firefighters, however, say the whole town gets a better deal on insurance because of the presence of the fire station. Town rules give the department final say in whether to continue using the siren, and they voted unanimously to keep sounding the alarm.