Fire Service mulls over siren options

The New Zealand Fire Service is still considering what it should do about the Ashhurst siren.

In May, resource management commissioners found the siren was probably routinely breaching noise limits, and they declined to grant an exemption.

The commissioners said the Fire Service was breaching its obligation to avoid unreasonable noise. They said the service should consult the community to gauge support for continued use of the siren, which they considered "generally unnecessary" given alternative means of communication.

The commissioners' view was that the siren should be used as a safety net only, if other contact options were not working.

Fire Service region manager assistant national commander Ian Pickard said the service was examining its options.

He said the service usually consulted with communities about how best to meet their needs and limit noise where possible.

Many used a combination of pager alerts and sirens to summon the fire crew. "How the response is triggered and the times of day the siren is used is often decided at a local level, depending on community need and coverage for Telecom or other paging systems."

Pickard said if paging systems failed, the service relied heavily on sirens as a backup. "We encourage communities to support their use in this way."

United Fire Brigades chief executive officer George Verry said fire sirens were still very much the "traditional call to arms" in rural towns.

Although the use of pagers and cellphones was growing, there were many parts of New Zealand where reception was "dodgy" or not available.

Sometimes the paging system worked, but the volunteers were too far away from the station to respond. "Often, in rural areas, fire sirens are probably the most reliable way to alert the brigade."

Verry was not aware of any communities where sirens had been silenced by authorities.

"Sirens are usually recognised for telling the community there is an issue that could be life-threatening, or property threatening."

The deadline for an appeal to the Environment Court is July 18.

Manawatu Standard