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May 13, 2008

Enter the Rumbler

Long story short: It's a souped-up, tricked-out new police siren with an amplifier and two sub-woofers augmenting the standard sound palette.

According to today's Associated Press story, it works by "... creating a lower-pitched sound that should cut through pretty much any traffic din and that can create vibrations that might get the attention of otherwised soundproofed motorists or pedestrians."

Hear it in action above and below.

Tell you what: It won't do much to alert the increasingly frequent drivers wearing closed headphones and listening to music I'm seeing in Charlottesville.

I can't imagine it's not happening everywhere.

Here's the AP article as it appears in today's Wall Street Journal.

    Police Test Souped-Up Siren

    The town of Vienna, Va., isn't big, but anyone who has tried to navigate its main streets at peak times knows it can be crowded and noisy. And that can hamper a police cruiser trying to get somewhere quickly.

    Enter the Rumbler.

    Vienna police are testing the Rumbler, a device that augments the standard siren with an amplifier and two subwoofers, creating a lower-pitched sound that should cut through pretty much any traffic din and that can create vibrations that might get the attention of otherwise soundproofed motorists or pedestrians.

    Police hope drivers or walkers "will start looking around, and hopefully they'll find the emergency vehicle" and clear the way, said Officer W.G. Murray of the Vienna Police Department. Vienna, which has 11 patrol cars to cover its 4.4 square miles, will rotate officers into the single car outfitted with the Rumbler, to give most officers a chance to gauge its effectiveness.

    The Rumbler consists of two speakers, mounted inside the front bumper, that emit a lower-pitched siren that seems to slice through ambient noise more effectively. The device even creates a small but noticeable vibration inside a car, much like when a passing car is playing a thunderous hip-hop song. Police, fire and ambulance drivers often express frustration when traffic doesn't clear for an emergency vehicle, and the situation can be potentially fatal if cars unknowingly drive across the path of a speeding firetruck or police car.

    "I had times, when I was on patrol, where I knew people didn't hear" the siren, said Vienna Detective James K. Sheeran as he watched the Rumbler being demonstrated. "I know they didn't hear it, because they didn't know why I walked up to their cars" when they did pull over, the detective said.

    The Rumbler is about two years old, but it has been picked up by about 200 police and sheriff's agencies throughout the country, according to its manufacturer, Federal Signal Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill. District of Columbia police equipped about four dozen cars with the Rumbler in the fall and plan to expand it to all 767 of the department's marked patrol cars.

    At a cost of about $350 a unit, "it's definitely not cost-prohibitive," Mr. Murray said.


I'd like to see this technology crammed into a travel alarm clock — I'd buy one in a New York yoctosecond.

May 13, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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