Mt. Sinai Hospital, which has four locations in Manhattan, as well as one in Queens and one in Flatbush, switched to European-style high-low tone sirens approximately 18 months ago, reported WNYC (https://cutt.ly/QiqzsL).
With ambulance sirens becoming louder in recent years so that they can be heard even in vehicles that are built to block exterior noise, Mt. Sinai found itself searching for an alternative to the traditional sirens whose escalating wails were becoming increasingly disturbing to city residents. The hospital ultimately settled on the new sirens, hoping that they would be “a little gentler,” said Mt. Sinai EMS department supervisor Bob Levy.
At the time, Levy said that the hospital polled city dwellers to hear their thoughts on the high-low siren.
“We asked people that had been complaining about the siren to listen to it and everyone agreed that was a much better alternative,” said Levy.
But those words have become the subject of a dispute, with over 800 people signing a petition started by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell three weeks ago titled “Mount Sinai: please lower the volume on your ambulance sirens!”
In his petition, O’Donnell alleged that Mt. Sinai has been engaged in “non-standard” use of its sirens, which operate at a higher volume than that of other ambulances and that, to date, the hospital has not responded to his requests to lower sound levels.
Petition signer Rocky Cole explained his reason for signing O’Donnell’s effort, writing “I live off 9th avenue and can attest that the Mt Sinai ambulance drivers are extremely uncaring in their use of their sirens. I have a whole folder full of videos showing them driving all the way down 9th Ave with sirens at full blast…at 3 am when the road is totally empty! There’s just no reason for that inconsiderate behavior.”
Others supporters noted that they are subjected to potentially harmful levels of noise and are under constant stress from being woken up at all hours of the night.
Comments to a blog post on West Side Rag (https://cutt.ly/aiqMZq) included thoughts from those who supported O’Donnell’s petition, as well as others who felt differently.
“I hear the sirens all the time from my apartment and think the new siren sounds much less disturbing that the regular sirens but I guess people need something to complain about,” posted your_neighbor.
Addressing another side of the issue was Ted who added sarcasatically, “The nerve of some people. They have a heart attack. They get shot. And they expect the whole city to stop so they can get to the hospital … Please just die quietly because I am trying to drink a latte here.”
Speaking to Morningside Heights residents who live near Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s at a community board meeting on June 3rd, hospital officials have said that there is no way to make the sirens quieter, reported NY1 (https://cutt.ly/SiqORW).
“It’s either on or off,” said a Mt. Sinai spokesperson. “There’s nothing we can do to turn the volume on or up.”
The hospital acknowledged that St. Luke’s is responding to approximately 40,000 911 calls annually in an arrangement with the FDNY. Under the terms of that agreement, the FDNY dictates siren usage, prompting residents to declare their intention to take their concerns to heads of the department and, possibly even, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” said one resident. “I hope it’s before I go deaf.”