Volunteer fire departments across the country relied upon numerous methods to notify members of emergencies. During the early 1980’s and before, cell phones did not exist and beepers were too expensive for more fire stations to own for their members in rural areas.
To combat the inability to notify fire fighters of an emergency, Fire officials installed loud sirens that would be sounded to call fire fighters to the station.
Helotes relied on this very method during the days of the volunteer fire fighters. However, over time the siren became mute because of mechanical failure. Yet, recently the siren has found its voice and awakened the sleeping giant.
According to some the decibel level of the siren is 120 decibels (dB). Elliott Berger, MS, Senior Scientist with 3M Occupational Health and Safety Division, shares anything less than 85 dB is considered safe. Most human conversations rank in the range of 60 dB and will not cause hearing loss.
If a person listens to a sound ranking 85 dB for more than 8 hours, damage to the individuals’ hearing may happen. Per his study, the ear can tolerate sounds of 115 dB for less than 30 seconds before damage to the ear and hearing loss can occur.
The City of Helotes claims the restoration of the siren was to aid in notifying the citizens in case of an emergency. However, no instructions have been provided to the citizens when they hear the siren. The City did have a news release listed on the City of Helotes website, yet the news release is not available unless you perform a search of the City’s website.
In the event of an emergency who has the time or the collective thought to search the City’s website or Facebook page for instructions on where to find the information regarding the emergency and what steps should be taken to live through the emergency.
The news posting mentioned citizens could find information on the lighted sign, the website or social media regarding the emergency but there has been no test or task to incorporate these additional steps into the blasting of the siren.
City officials have expressed they will test this siren every day at noon. Even the Emergency Broadcast test is not conducted daily nor is it done at the same time every day.
The estimated cost to fix the siren was listed at over $3,000. The Echo is waiting for response to the official information request for the exact total to refurbish and breathe new life into the siren.
At this time the City has no plans to discontinue testing the siren, even though there are business located within forty feet of the siren, and the documented danger to an individuals’ hearing.