West Point residents remain critical of siren’s decibel levels
The first time Brittany Waterhouse’s daughter, Gwendalyn, heard the wail of the West Point Volunteer Fire Co. siren, she took off running.
The beehive-shaped siren located atop a telephone pole across the street from their New Market Drive home normally sounds off between two and three times a day, Waterhouse said, each time leaving her children shocked.
“The first time my 4-year-old heard it … she ran away. It scared her. If it goes off and this one hears it, she’s so terrified that in my arms, in her own mother’s arms, she’s trembling, she’s crying. It upsets me,” Waterhouse said, pointing to her 9-month-old, Lillyan Nalevanko.
Waterhouse moved to her home in 2018 with her fiance, Bruce Nalevanko.
Issues with the siren have been recurring since at least 2009 when the township struck a deal with the fire department to set the siren at 92 decibels and required it to run for four cycles of 15 seconds each when activated.
Township Fire Chief Anthony Kovacic said he has hired a third party company to test the decibels, which reach 103.7 at Waterhouse’s front porch, according to a picture of a decibel reader she provided to the Tribune-Review. Kovacic did not have specific dates on when the siren would be tested, but said he is working to provide the company with needed information.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, decibels reaching between 100 and 110 are similar to a subway train, a car horn, sporting events or the maximum volume on radios or televisions. Noise at 100 decibels can cause hearing loss after 15 minutes, while decibels between 105 and 110 can cause hearing loss after five minutes.
Standing beside or near a siren can reach 120 decibels, according to the CDC, causing pain or injury to the ear.
Since the 2009 agreement, residents have taken to public meetings to express discomfort and frustration with the siren, calling it a public nuisance and health hazard.
A 2008 agreement between the township and fire department withheld $5,000 of the department’s $15,000 annual allocation to purchase and install a new fire siren. By 2010, supervisors voted to purchase and install a control system to reduce the siren duration from two minutes to one.
That debate was rekindled in 2015 when several West Point residents called for the duration to once again be reduced.
This year the siren has provided a myriad of issues for officials after a timer problem caused it to go off in the middle of the night. Kovacic said it was turned off for a few weeks while repairs were made, leaving firefighters to rely on a phone application to know when to respond to calls.
“Unfortunately that app isn’t very reliable and I think that’s one of the reasons they utilize the siren as well,” Kovacic said.
Now, the siren has once again been turned off while officials work to identify and fix another issue.
“When that siren goes off, if you’re under it — when you don’t live next to it and you’re under it — it’s not nostalgic, it’s a nuisance for anybody who’s underneath it,” Waterhouse said. “Because I live next to it, it’s a constant nuisance. This is nothing against the firemen. I know that they need to be reached in an emergency … I understand noise. I’ve got two kids. I was expecting it to be down the road (at the fire station), not on top of a telephone pole.”
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .