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Ask the Mayor: Why Do Emergency Vehicles Use Sirens in Early Morning Hours?

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Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his staff.

Dear Mayor Alan Arakawa,

Q: I have lived in many cities, both on the mainland and abroad, and Maui is the first place I’ve lived where emergency vehicles, such as police cars or fire trucks, use their sirens regardless of the time of day or night.

I’ve heard them blaring down the Pi‘ilani at 3 in the morning.

In other places at night, the vehicles would use their flashing lights and pop on the sirens only if someone is unable to see them coming, or if they are crossing a busy intersection, etc. They would not have the sirens going non-stop.


Is there a reason this practice isn’t followed here?


A: For the situation you just described, I don’t think we can assume that there is no traffic on the road at 3 a.m., and I would rather have our emergency personnel err on the side of caution rather than recklessness.

That said, I asked our Department of Fire & Public Safety about this and they pointed to their Standard Operating Guidelines, which states that “visual and audible warning devices shall be used anytime a vehicle is responding to an incident in emergency mode.

“Audible sirens may be turned off to curtail noise, such as near hospitals or late night calls into residential areas.


“The fire officer has the discretion to turn off audible sirens when road and traffic conditions are favorable, but in doing so, they are considered operating in non-emergency mode and must obey the same traffic laws as ordinary public vehicles.”

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at [email protected], (808) 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

This column originally appeared in publication on Feb. 13, 2013.

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