Firefighters sue siren manufacturer over their hearing loss
Firefighters sue siren manufacturer over their hearing loss

Firefighters sue siren manufacturer over their hearing loss, Report

Firefighters across US suing siren manufacturer over their hearing loss.

More than 4,000 current and former firefighters are suing an Illinois company that makes sirens, claiming the firm did not do enough to make them safe on fire trucks.

The group say Federal Signal, based in Oak Brook, could have designed the fire truck sirens so that the volume was directed away from firefighters, and shielded them from sound blasts that lawyers say reach 120 decibels.

The lawsuits, which first began surfacing more than a decade ago, have been filed in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and the Chicago area.

Joseph Nardone, a former New York City fire battalion chief, retired more than 10 years ago but still experiences problems with his hearing.

He said: “The siren was so loud inside the cab that it actually physically hurt.

“The manufacturer had the means and ability to do something about it and they didn’t.”

The 73-year-old said he has been left unable to understand rapid conversation or follow along in church.

Around 4,400 firefighters are involved in the lawsuit.

Federal Signal has argued that directing the sound would defeat the main purpose of the siren – warning motorists and pedestrians that the fire truck is coming.

It has also said it supports fire department advice to wear ear protection.

In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said juries have decided in favour of Federal Signal in most of the half-dozen lawsuits that have gone to trial.

It has also settled in some cases without admitting wrongdoing. The largest settlement, in 2011, saw the company pay $3.6m to 1,069 firefighters in cases filed in Philadelphia.

Marc Bern, a lawyer who is leading the lawsuits, said the company could have made the sirens with a shroud to warn those in its path rather than a more generalised “blare”.

He said: “Clearly, you don’t have to have sound going all the way to the rear of the fire engine.

“If you’re driving behind a fire engine and you don’t see a 50ft-long, red… engine with lights going on and off, there’s really something wrong.”

David Duffy, a lawyer for Federal Signal, said firefighting organisations have advocated the use of earplugs or ear coverings for more than 30 years to reduce the risk of hearing loss from sirens.


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