Sound the alarm - the war on silence has intensified
BACK IN the 1980s, it was difficult to live in city centre Dublin and not be driven demented by burglar alarms that rang for protracted periods, sometimes for an entire weekend.
Keyholders of commercial premises would lock up on a Friday evening and head for the peace of the suburbs, only for their alarms to start sounding an hour or two later because a passing double-decker bus had rattled the windows, or because two gambolling mice had nudged a monitored door.
There seemed to be no rules at all designed to protect the unfortunate residents of the city centre, who were condemned to trying to sleep with pillows pressed to their ears.
At least back then alarms tended to sound like speeded-up school bells rather than the more stress-inducing sirens that the companies that make these things have opted for in more recent years.
It is worth remembering that the whole point of the kind of sounds made by alarms is to do exactly what they say on the tin – cause alarm. Screeching sirens are designed to induce distress in exactly the same way a baby’s cry is set at a pitch (most) people cannot ignore.
These days the suburbs are as plagued by siren-type alarms as the city centre of Dublin was by bell-ringing alarms back in the bad old 1980s. The volume and pitch of these devices are such that they can be heard inside houses that are streets away from the house that, more often than not, is not being burgled.
Other than cursing them when they go off, as far as I am aware most neighbours ignore alarms when they go off. Burglars probably dislike them but I often wonder if they constitute much of a deterrent.
The law says that any house alarm introduced since August 2006 must not sound for more than 15 minutes. This is a welcome law but its effect is somewhat undermined by the fact that house alarms are now so prolific. A morning in suburbia during which a succession of alarms sound within hearing is as common, if not more common, than a morning when they leave you in peace.
Strong wind, passing vehicles, interference from the communications system used by taxis and a myriad other reasons can lie behind this unnecessary noise pollution.
When you throw in car alarms you can be easily led to the conclusion that someone, somewhere has launched a war on silence.
According to the Department of the Environment, under EU standards 95/56/EC, car alarms should sound for a minimum of 25 seconds and a maximum of 30 seconds. “The audible alarm signal may sound again only after the next interference with the vehicle.” That came as news to me when I saw it while preparing this column.