(Above) Chicago Fire Department vehicles on North State Street.
10-Dec-18 Siren noise in downtown Chicago will be reduced dramatically when a new state law takes effect in less than a month, according to a city alderman who helped craft the law.
42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly worked with 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins and State Representative Christian Mitchell on a bill limiting the use of sirens on emergency vehicles. The bill was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 19. Ambulances and rescue vehicles will be allowed to operate a siren only when it is reasonably necessary to warn pedestrians and other drivers of the approach thereof while responding to an emergency call or transporting a patient.
Excessive siren noise has been a major concern for downtown residents, wrote Reilly in his newsletter on Friday. He says he researched existing laws and found that in cities comparable to Chicago, emergency vehicle sirens are typically exempt from local noise ordinances. That is why, he explained, a state law was necessary.
At a meeting in October of Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, which supported the bill in the Illinois General Assembly, Reilly said discussions with Chicago Fire Department and Chicago Police Department had resulted in policy that limits use of sirens by city vehicles to emergency situations.
Youll hear their sirens if theyre rushing to a serious emergency but otherwise, theyve shown a lot of restraint by tooting their way through intersections when necessary, said Reilly. They understand that these are noises that get louder the higher up you live.
(Left) Reilly at a meeting in 2017 of Streeterville Organization of Active Residents. SOAR president Deborah Gershbein at left. Photo by Gabor Mozsi.
Private ambulances are worst offenders, says alderman
The problem, says Reilly, is with private ambulance companies that use sirens in their vehicles even in situations that are not emergencies.
The real bad actors, unfortunately, are the private ambulance companies, said Reilly. Theyre rolling the sirens for convenience and to get places faster.
According to Reilly, most private ambulances using their siren are transporting organs and not for time-sensitive procedures.
In its newsletter last week, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents welcomed the new law and said it had been advocating reduction of excessive siren noise for years. Sirens are especially an issue in Streeterville because Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Lurie Childrens Hospital are located there.
We are aware that training is necessary for First Responders to comply with the new [law] but are confident that noise levels will be lowered, wrote SOAR on December 6.
Although it is a state law, it will apply only to Chicago or specifically, any city in Illinois with a population of at least one million.