Lake Cowichan’s fire alarm should be shut off at night, says Michele March. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

VIDEO: Should Lake Cowichan’s fire alarm be shut off at night?

It’s intrusive, interrupting sleep, perhaps even scaring newcomers and tourists: resident says

Fire alarms at night are disruptive and Lake Cowichan should turn off the siren during sleeping hours, Michele March told town councillors at their March 6 public works meeting.

Appearing as a one person delegation, she said that the subject had last been brought to council in 2011, when the senior residents of Olson Manor had asked and been refused.

“Recently, both the mayor and the fire chief, [gave no] reasonable explanation as to why, with the level of technology and telecommunication available to us, we persist in using an archaic system. We are requesting that the fire siren be used between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and silenced through the night from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. This would allow the siren to be utilized during school hours, when people are using the sprinklers, when there’s traffic on the road, and when our volunteer firefighters are mowing the lawn or otherwise engaged in noisy outdoor pursuits and may not hear a pager call.”

She continued with questions for council and the fire chief.

“Is there an integrated call out system with internet radio transmission and satellites, as is done on the north Island? Can we identify dead zones for pager coverage, and if so, has this question been addressed with the service that supplies satellite protection? Why would a roll call be required if firefighters respond to a pager and not be required if they respond to a fire siren?

“Several fire chiefs on Vancouver Island were willing to talk with me and were able to explain their procedures and the rationale for their procedures. The entire north Island has not operated a fire siren at night for many years, except Port Alice and they are in discussion to dedicate theirs for a tsunami warning. Cherry Creek, in the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, advises that they have had their fire siren on a timer for eight to 10 years, silent at night. Sidney, East Sooke and Ganges have also discontinued this over the last five years.

“I asked all the individuals I spoke with whether they had any incidents where there was a delay in obtaining a feed due to the lack of a fire siren. They all responded quickly and said no. In addition, none have seen a decrease in the number of members responding,” she said.

Next, March spoke of the reasons for her request.

“People who suffer from PTSD, older people with health issues, small children, and many people with sleep issues are affected when woken from sleep. Sleep is critical to wellness.

“I think it also time to consider the tourists, especially those who will be staying in the newly renovated Riverside Inn. We’re trying to grow this sector of the economy and an unknown air-raid siren at 2 a.m. is not going to result in a positive feeling for our area.

“Since the last request to modify the fire siren in 2011, the Lake Cowichan area has grown considerably with many new people arriving who may be from small towns who do not employ the use of a fire siren. As far as modifying the existing call out procedure, it would be very easy to talk to other fire stations as I have done and to turn to best practices that have worked well.

“We all respect and wholly appreciate the dedicated work of our volunteer fire department and all of our first responders and we are optimistic that this issue can be resolved while providing a safe and effective fire service.”

March was told that council will have another discussion with Lake Cowichan Fire Chief Doug Knott about the night time use of the fire siren to see if there are some specific reasons why it needs to continue in the community.

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