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What's that booming noise in Bartow? | News

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What's that booming noise in Bartow?
What's that booming noise in Bartow?

Bartow, Florida -- In Bartow, that deep booming sound may not be coming from someone's car stereo. It could be coming from one of the city's own police cruisers. 

The department has started making some noise of its own, so to speak, to improve safety and response time.

When Bartow police officer Bryan Dorman is running code, cars just seem to get out of his way faster these days, he says, and the department believes the reason is a new siren system called "the Howler."

"I don't know if I could go back to a regular siren and feel safe with it," said Dorman.

Like a big subwoofer, the Howler sends out a low frequency vibration up to 200 feet.

You can see flashing lights. You can hear a siren. But the Howler, you feel. In an age of texting, iPods and cell phone distractions, that can be a valuable tool.

Becky Stoff, crossing the street as a cruised blasted the Howler, was startled by it.

"It just scared me more than anything," she said.

Sheila Tindle, another pedestrian thinks it's a good idea. "Well, if you hear it, you can watch out for it. Pay attention," she said.

Not everyone likes the system. Some noise control groups say the Howler, or Rumbler as it's called elsewhere, can be disorienting.

William Groover, who works at Bartow's car pool facility, first pitched the idea of using the Howler after feeling one in use himself while visiting relatives in Albany, New York.

Groover is no stranger to sirens, but this wasn't typical. "Like a vibration, almost. It wasn't overwhelming. Just different," he said.

The city of Bartow first decided to try out the Howler system with its fire department and they liked the results.

The Howler was co-developed by a Florida Highway Patrol Captain, and in its first five years on the market, reports show it's been adopted by more than a hundred agencies including Chicago, Boston and the NYPD.

Some agencies, like the Polk County Sheriff's have chosen to go with other systems, calling the Howler pricey at $350 each.

But Bartow police say they've worked out a package deal and consider the system worth the expense "to make sure we're seen, heard and felt ," says Dorman, "In order to do our job safely."

Several Bay area fire departments are also using the Howler system. 

Bartow plans to keep adding them to their new cars as they replace aging ones, eventually outfitting the entire fleet.  

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