New police siren makes its presence felt

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With the Howler, this siren isn't just heard, it's felt/ Image: davidsonscott15/Flickr/CC BY

A new kind of police siren, made by the Whelen company, is making its presence felt on the nation’s streets and highways. And that’s not figurative. The Howler emits a low-frequency vibration that can be felt as well as heard.

Felt 200 feet away

The Howler, or Rumbler as it is called in some areas, puts out vibrations that is felt by everyone within 200 feet of the patrol car, not just the car targeted by the siren. Co-developed by a one-time Florida Highway Patrol Captain, the Howler is intended to cut through the barrage of electronic noises that bombard us constantly in this mobile technological age.

Some residents displeased

Some residents of the Florida town of Bartow are reportedly annoyed with the palpable tones. One resident, Becky Stoff, told reporters:

“It just scared me more than anything.”

System is safer, police say

Police officers, however, stand behind the new system. They assert that it is a safer method of saying “pull over.”

Officer Bryan Dorman told local news outlet, WTSP:

“I don’t know if I could go back to a regular siren and feel safe with it.”

Noise pollution activists react

Not everybody thinks the Howler increases public safety. NoiseOFF, an anti-noise pollution coalition, issued a statement on the Howler:

“[The Howler] siren easily triggers an involuntary stress response commonly known as ‘fight or flight.’ This results in the secretion of adrenaline, with ensuing spikes in cardio-respiratory rates, muscle tension, and elevated blood pressure. Infrasound is low frequency sound energy that affects the nervous system and prolonged exposure can lead to progressive medical conditions.”

Popularity growing

But the criticism doesn’t seem to be slowing down the Howler. Hundreds of police departments across the nation are now adopting the system, including Boston, Chicago and New York City.

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Too pricey, some say

Other agencies — like the Polk County Sheriff’s Department — have decided to pass on economic grounds. At $350 per car, it is not cheap.


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