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Tri-State Area Firefighters Sue Siren Manufacturer, Claim Hearing Loss

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of active and retired firefighters in New York and New Jersey say they are losing their hearing, and have filed suit against a siren manufacturer.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, it was a job hazard that Victor Carlucci never thought about. But after 21 years as an FDNY firefighter, he said his hearing is gone – and he blames the loud sirens on the fire engines.

"I say that I can't believe that I did this for so long, you know, knowing how loud it was," he said.

Carlucci is now part of nearly 1,500 FDNY firefighters, and hundreds more across the country, suing siren manufacturer Federal Signal for "irreversible hearing loss."

The firefighters claim the pitch and decibel level of the sirens is "unreasonably dangerous."

Their attorney, Marc Bern, said the sirens are defective.

"It's a product that is so loud, it causes noise induced hearing loss," Bern said. "It is not something that the fire department or municipalities have a responsibility for."

The lawsuit also claims that Federal Signal could have designed the sirens to be safer while still functional, but chose not to.

"They could have directed the sound by using what we call a shroud," Bern said.

However, Federal Signal disagrees. The company told CBS2, "The claims by these plaintiff lawyers that sirens are too loud and should be more directive don't make sense," and that any changes "would make the sirens less effective and subject the firefighters and general public to increased risk of serious accidents."

While Federal Signal claims to meet the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of 85 decibels, Shelley Borgia, a doctor of audiology, said sirens can easily exceed that level.

"Eighty-five decibels is kind of like busy city traffic, and honestly, some restaurants that we dine in," Borgia said. "If you raise the volume, like a siren or a subway, we're well over 100 decibels -- sometimes approaching 120 -- and you really shouldn't be exposed to that amount of sound for more than a few seconds."

Federal Signal is the world's largest manufacturer of audible and visual signaling.


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