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Silence the siren, resident begs

  • CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS The controversial siren at the Coaldale Complex on Sixth Street.
    CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS The controversial siren at the Coaldale Complex on Sixth Street.
Published July 13. 2011 05:01PM

The piercing wail of Coaldale's emergency siren is meant to alert residents to fires or other hazards. But one resident believes the siren itself is dangerous.

Brittany Colburn, of 254 Sixth St., on Tuesday made her second appearance before borough council to ask the board to either silence the siren or move it away from the Coaldale Complex, which houses a Head Start program that will soon include infants. The siren stands right next to the building, at Sixth and Phillips streets.

Colburn lives across the street from the siren, and said that it sounds at between 125-135 decibels, a degree of loudness she claims can cause permanent hearing damage within 30 seconds. The siren sounds for about 3 minutes. She said the children who attend the Head Start program are at risk, as are any children who use the playground at the complex.

She asked council members to imagine how they would feel "if your kid came home from the playground with permanent hearing damage and had to wear a hearing aid for the rest of their life."

That drew skepticism from Councilman Andrew Girard, who said he grew up near the siren, and his son attended school at the complex and that his hearing is fine. Council president Susan Solt said the borough has had no complaints from Head Start officials.

Colburn claims her hearing has been damaged by the sound since she moved to 254 Sixth St. However, she said she cannot afford to have a doctor check the extent of the hearing loss.

That prompted Girard to ask why she would move to a house across the street from the siren.

Girard said the siren is crucial to alert residents to dangers and to call firefighters to duty should their pagers fail. A firefighter for 12 years, Girard said pagers are not always reliable.

"I can be standing in one part of this room right now and my pager will go off, and I can go to that side of the room over there, and it won't do a darn thing," he said.

If the communications tower is down, he said, "none of them go off. Now, your house is on fire, you've just called, we don't have that siren to go off and warn our firefighters that our power is down. No one can get there, because we don't know what's going on."

Borough Fire Chief Richard Marek also opposes silencing the siren.

The siren is not sounded often. It was activated twice last week, and once in June, said Councilman Joseph Hnat. Girard said the siren sounds if there is a structure fire, smoke in a structure or a car accident.

The 30-year-old siren was installed in the 1970s by the federal government as a civil defense measure. It was designed to emit a variety of alerts for different emergencies, but has for some time apparently been stuck on a shrill "attack" warning sound.

There was some debate as to whether the siren is an air raid siren or a fire warning siren.

Mayor Richard Corkery has for some time campaigned to get rid of the siren. After Colburn spoke, Councilwoman Nancy Lorchak asked her if she had been "prompted" to complain. Colburn admitted to having spoken with Corkery at one of his Tuesday "meet the mayor" sessions. Corkery said Colburn approached him about the siren.

Last spring, council agreed to have Martin Electric of Walker Township look at the siren to see if the company could fix it so it would not be so loud. However, the company never came to check the siren, or got back to them about fixing it.

Solt referred the siren matter to committee.

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