Sara Swanson

Fire siren sits silently waiting for residents’ feedback

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Manchester Township Hall

Most village residents have probably noticed by now the absence of the fire siren that for years sounded every time the Manchester Township Fire Department was dispatched. In March, the Fire Department explained that all Washtenaw County Fire Departments still using them upgraded from older VHF pagers to 800 MHz (megahertz) pagers as a result of the passing of the county-wide emergency communications millage renewal last year. This upgrade allows all first responders in the county to communicate with each other. As the siren was activated by the VHF signal, the change to 800 MHz ceased activating the siren and it now sits silent.

Fire chief Bill Scully explained the history of the siren:

“The original fire siren was located in the old township hall / fire station on Clinton St., and in the day the fire siren was the only way that the firefighters were notified of a call. If the siren blew once, the call was in town; and if it blew twice, the call was out of town. Mrs. Kirk, who lived above what was Stockwell’s catering, was our emergency phone operator. The (emergency number) back then was a 428 number that rang at her apartment. She would take the information, activate the fire siren and then start calling the firefighters at home or at work. The phone call follow up was in case they didn’t hear the siren.

“When we started using pagers, the siren was still used for an additional means of notifying the firefighters. The siren blowing once or twice no longer meant anything. The village offices were located in the old township hall / fire station so the siren remained there and continued to blow for calls. When the village office moved to City Road, and the building was sold, the new owner didn’t want to have the siren blowing in his building so it was disconnected.

“There were a few people that missed the siren blowing, because it notified them that there was a fire call and they needed to turn on their scanner so they could hear where the fire department was going. A used siren was installed at the current township hall and it blew for several years until our pagers were upgraded to 800 MHz. recently.”

Dawna Stockwell, who coincidentally until recently ran a business out of the building that housed the original siren operator, misses the siren. Stockwell stated, “When the fire whistle used to blow people would look out for other people and make sure that they were safe crossing the street. And if the children were playing and heard the fire whistle they knew enough to stay put. Now, not hearing the whistle, it’s dangerous for the kids busy running around.” She acknowledges people who live around the fire station may complain about the whistle but points out that they knew it was there before they moved in. “I hope we get our fire whistle back!” she concluded.

Most of the surrounding communities have abandoned the fire siren as a means of notifying their firefighters. Scully stated that the siren could be turned back on, but that the department hasn’t had any feedback on the silencing of the siren, so they don’t know whether people miss it or are glad it isn’t blowing.

Do you miss the fire siren or are you happy it is gone? Let the fire department know! Email Fire Chief Bill Scully at mtfdc1@sbcglobal.net or write the Fire Department a letter, care of Manchester Township, PO Box 668, Manchester, MI 48158.

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