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Officer as Maestro

The sudden blast of a siren, horn, or alarm has a physiological effect on us — it raises our pulse, makes us more aware, and increases our level of arousal. In many cities around the U.S., police departments have employed the use of low-frequency sirens whose sound is heard and felt. In New York City, this type of siren is known as “The Rumbler.” According to The New York Times, “The Rumbler is no louder than a standard siren. In fact, it’s quieter — 10 decibels lower, which translates to only half the volume. But because low-frequency sound waves penetrate cars better than those at a higher pitch, drivers experience [emphasis by author] the Rumbler as much louder than a standard siren.”

Interestingly enough, some New York Police Department officers use a compositional judgment in how they use The Rumbler, especially as part of an arsenal of other siren sounds available to them. The other siren sounds that are available to the NYPD range in description and purpose, from the “Air Horn” used by highway officers to “The Yelp,” “The Wail,” and “The Fast.”“Every time you hear that distinct and invasive wail, which may not technically be a wail, chances are the police officer behind it has made a deliberate, even aesthetic choice,” The New York Times reports. “The decision is wholly subjective; there are no guidelines.”

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