All about that bass: new rumbler sirens alert distracted road users

Issued: 17 August 2015

Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Commissioner Greg Mullins today announced the roll out of new low frequency sirens to alert inattentive motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

The "rumbler" sirens emit low frequency soundwaves through large subwoofers installed on the front of the fire truck, creating vibrations which can be felt by drivers in sound-proof modern cars and pedestrians listening to music or on the phone.

Following a successful trial in the Sydney CBD, rumbler sirens will be fitted to 25 fire trucks in areas of high traffic and pedestrian activity, such as The Rocks, Darlinghurst, Burwood, Manly, Parramatta, Eastwood, Blacktown, Newcastle and Wollongong.

"Firefighters tell me they are constantly alarmed by the number of pedestrians who aren't paying attention and step out on to the road in front of the fire truck, as well as cyclists and drivers who don't hear the sirens," Mr Elliott said.

"These new sirens with their low frequency output can be felt as well as heard."

Commissioner Mullins said the siren technology had been used successfully overseas and in the Sydney CBD.

"FRNSW drivers are taught to be careful when approaching a busy intersection, however fire trucks weigh more than 15 tonnes and cannot stop suddenly when a distracted pedestrian walks on to the road," Commissioner Mullins said.

"We trialled the new siren on one of the busiest fire trucks in the CBD and as soon as the rumbler was switched on, people became more alert and aware of approaching vehicle."

He said drivers should move to the left-hand side of the road when they hear sirens and not brake suddenly or panic. If it is not safe to move immediately out of the way, keep moving forward until it's safe to move over.