Police sirens play a vital role in ensuring that people on the road and indeed pedestrians are alerted to the presence of a police vehicle. There are many uses and functions of police sirens in emergency situations as well as everyday processes for police officers on the road. These sirens are not just used to alert drivers, but people on the sidewalk as well. For instance, a police officer might be speeding through traffic in pursuit of an offending vehicle. In cases like this, it is important that pedestrians do not attempt to cross the road. This is just one example of the functions of the siren. We can look at the functions in more details as well as the different sounds that officers can use for their sirens when they are on the job.

Different Sounds Of The Siren

Have you ever heard a police siren and thought that it didn’t sound the same as before? No, we’re not talking about the infamous nee-Nah, woo-woo debate here. This is simply a matter of personal perception, the reality is that police officers will change the siren based on the situation or indeed, the function required.

The siren is often changed to make sure that it gains the maximum level of attention of people on the road and on the sidewalk.

Police officers tend to use ‘wail’ when they are on a typical highway or street. However, once they reach heavy traffic, they might switch it to something referred to as the ‘piercer’. The idea, of course is that the piercer pierces through the senses of individuals driving and ensures that they clear a path for the police car. Modern police cars these days are also equipped with a ‘howler’ function. This siren operates at a low frequency and is used to get the attention of drivers miles in front to ensure that they have moved out the way, or are at least aware of the situation long before the police car reaches them.

There is also a separate siren that can be used when escorting a vehicle such as a truck carrying money. You might think that you can tell the difference between these types of sirens. However, to the untrained ear, they are actually remarkably similar. Why then are different sirens used? It is more to do with a subconscious effect on your senses that you are probably not aware of. Basically, it is all about doing whatever is necessary to gain the maximum attention.

As well as this, the different sirens can alert emergency workers which type of response is on the way. A police siren will not sound the same as an ambulance siren to a trained emergency worker.

Making things a tad more complicated, not all sirens are the same. The sounds change depending on the manufacturer used for each vehicle or service.

Functions Of The Police Sirens

As already noted, police sirens can be used in a wide range of situations, and we’ve already mentioned a few briefly. Firstly, a siren will alert people that an emergency response car is on its way. This ensures that victims feel safe and it could even stop a crime in progress. In this way, a police siren can actually be a significant deterrent and stop an actual crime from happening. As well as this, if emergency response workers hear the siren and understand which one it is, they know how to prepare for their arrival. For instance, if an ambulance was on its way, responders could get a victim ready for transport. In the case of a police officer, it might just provide witnesses time to prepare their statements.

Of course, the main function of a police siren is to make sure that police officers can get from point a to point b as rapidly as possible. Many people wonder why police officers use sirens when it clearly alerts criminals that they are on their way. The simple fact is that without the sirens, traffic would not move to clear a path and for a good reason. After all, the siren alerts road users that the police are responding to an emergency. Without it, people will simply assume that it is either patrolling or even off the job and if that is the case, they have no reason to alter their course or indeed pull over, when used along with police and emergency vehicle lights, it’s a powerful warning to anyone.

In the case of traffic offences, a siren can also be used to alert a driver that they have been spotted and should pull over when it is safe to do so. Typically, a siren will be used if the car is speeding. If it is a minor offence, such as a broken taillight, it is likely that the lights will be the only warning as the police officer may realize that this will be enough to get a driver who is unaware that they have broken the law to pull over.

There is also the matter of safety. If a police officer is in a high-speed pursuit, a road will be far safer if cars move out of the way and clear a path. A police officer may not slow down in a situation like this and risk a criminal getting away, and if a car does not move, it could cause a dangerous or even fatal collision. There is also the issue of pedestrians. Not all pedestrians cross the road safely, and it is vital that they do not walk out in front of a speeding police car when attempting to cross.

Finally, a siren may be used when a police car is being used to escort a vehicle. It is worth pointing out that this does not always mean that the vehicle has some sort of high value and is at risk of theft. It could be that it is a slow-moving vehicle on a highway where people are traveling at fast speeds that is taking up two lanes. In this type of situation, the siren is essentially alerting drivers that there is a danger ahead and they should be cautious.

Click here to find out more about the history and functions of the police siren.