Do we really need sirens blaring in the night?

So here I am in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, tapping away on my computer like a digitally disposed insomniac when I should be residing in the arms of Morpheus while attempting to acquire the heavily prescribed minimum dose of six to eight hours of beauty sleep that apparently we humans, especially we less than aesthetically gifted specimens, require.

So here I am in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, tapping away on my computer like a digitally disposed insomniac when I should be residing in the arms of Morpheus while attempting to acquire the heavily prescribed minimum dose of six to eight hours of beauty sleep that apparently we humans, especially we less than aesthetically gifted specimens, require.

The reason for my reluctantly aroused state is, alas, the misfortune of another: I was joltingly awakened by the departure of an entourage of emergency vehicles leaving the firehall a few blocks over in Sunnybrook, sirens ripping the night apart, as, indeed, they do most nights at least once. We may never know the outcome of the human drama that was unfolding, but hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were enmeshed in it by the cacophony that stole the night away from us.

Of course, I sympathize with the hapless victim of disaster and I’m sure that the sound of approaching blaring behemoths may have sounded like a symphony in a moment of need, but I cannot help but postulate that the associated racket could be minimized to avoid such abrupt punctuations in the lives of the rest of us not currently blighted by catastrophe.

This may sound selfish but its really not. It is in the context of a wider public good. Many people are required to be fit and rested before they commence their duties in a safe and alert manner that is expected of them by society.

A theoretical driver falling asleep at the wheel of a car is guilty of negligence and becomes a menace to others when all they needed was a good, uninterrupted snooze the night before. If this driver does fall prey to destiny and sleep debt say, because he or she was awakened by the wail of klaxons once or more the previous night, does this not somewhat negate the contribution to society that the stalwart members of our emergency services have already made?

It becomes a self defeating Sisyphean task to constantly rescue victims of unfortunate circumstance when there is a literally incalculable potential that in doing so, the sonic implications may lead to yet another calamity — although the Macchiavelli in me might suppose that this was good for business.

This may be a prosaic example and perhaps unprovable, but the fact remains that citizens should be able to properly rest when possible. Shift workers are subjected to horrendous forces acting upon their minds and bodies enough as it is without the variable of other peoples’ misery which is, frankly, none of their concern. Numerous psychological studies emphasize the physical and mental requirements of functional rest.

Red Deer by day is a bustling, modern city with traffic issues associated with typical conurbations that would necessitate the wider use of sirens. But at night, it’s pretty much a sleepy hamlet and it should stay that way.

Many communities have bylaws banning train whistles between certain hours of day except in the event of impending emergency and I propose the same for emergency vehicles. There are probably liability issues involved but they need a holistic approach.

A similar rationale banned the use of train whistles and I’m certain that the same argument can be made for emergency vehicles.

The other advantage, apart from the benefits of uninterrupted slumber, is that Red Deer would sound a lot less like Chicago and more like, well, Red Deer.

Now I feel the need, the need for sleep.

Mark Bretherton

Red Deer