By Joe Beck
The Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department voted Thursday night to reduce the duration of the siren alerts that have rattled the nerves of some town residents.
David Hupp, president of the fire department's board, said Friday the siren will sound for a one-minute cycle instead of the current two minutes. The volume of the siren rises and falls four times with each cycle.
The department also decided that the siren will be eliminated altogether at times when the station has enough firefighters available to operate major pieces of equipment. Specifically, there must be 12 people - four each - to operate the fire engine and two pieces of specialty equipment, Hupp said.
Hupp's comments came after department members met Thursday in a closed meeting to consider comments at a February town meeting in which some residents said the siren was too loud and questioned its necessity in alerting volunteer firefighters to an emergency.
Hupp said he is unsure when the one-minute cycle will take effect. Residents will continue to hear the siren operate at its current two-minute interval until the department can find someone with the technical know-how to make the switch to one minute, he said.
"We tried to do it last night, but we didn't want to mess with it," Hupp said of the siren's settings. "It was not something we fully understood."
Fire department officials have argued they need the siren as a backup alert when the volunteers' pagers malfunction in certain locations. Siren defenders say the county's telecommunications isn't reliable enough to serve as the sole means of summoning firefighters.
Others say Strasburg wouldn't be the same without the siren, which has been a distinctive part of the town's everyday life for many years.
Critics of the siren have insisted the technology exists to alert firefighters without resorting to the siren's loud wailing. The noise undermines tourist-oriented businesses and makes it hard for some residents to get a good night's sleep, they say.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org