The city is ordering new fire truck sirens after a trial run made sound sense for Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service crews.
WFPS leased four fire engines and received stock engines pre-installed with the new eQ2b sirens — an electronic version of the often-used Q-siren — late last year, and despite having not ordered the sirens at the time, the favourable response from crews after receiving them has convinced the city to make the switch.
"We had some information come from the crews saying that they were finding that it really did a good job of clearing the intersections and the drivers were noticing the sirens better than the previous sirens," WFPS director of emergency mechanical services Brad Enders said.
The new sirens will come with the 12 new fire trucks the WFPS is expecting by 2021 as part of its regular replacement program.
"We took that feedback from the crews, and we just changed the make and model of the siren that was to be included on the trucks we were purchasing, and changed it to this (eQ2b) siren, to make a significant safety improvement in our opinion," Enders said.
If you find yourself feeling the effects of the new sirens as well as hearing it, it may be because all 12 trucks will also be fitted with the Whelen Howler siren. This siren, first installed on district chief of paramedic operations vehicles two years prior, is built to get the attention of drivers at a different frequency.
"The Howler emits a low-frequency bass that kind of has the ability to penetrate through the body panels (of cars) — cars are very well insulated now from road noise and such," he said.
"So it’s kind of a two-step approach — the Howler emits a low-frequency bass, and the (eQ2b) siren has a higher-pitched sound, and between the two, we’re finding they’re penetrating through the cars and really alerting the drivers."
The decision to fit the replacement trucks with these sirens is a matter of safety, Enders said — not just for drivers, but for WFPS crew as well.
"We are finding reports from the crews that there’s a lot of distracted driving, people using earbuds, listening to loud music, not paying attention," he said.
"So we’re using that as feedback and looking for ways we can do a better job to alert the drivers to avoid collisions at intersections."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.