New police sirens in use in the Nation's capital

by Brian Mooar
NBC News

A new device called "The Rumbler" is promising to give the old-fashioned police siren a safety boost.

As its name suggests the device gives off a rumbling sound.

It is intended to grab the attention of pedestrians and motorists so officers can get to emergencies without getting into accidents.

Police around the country complain their sirens just don't command attention the way they used to.

The Rumbler isn't so much a sound as a sensation, booming bass notes pounding with the traditional siren screech.

It's designed to wake up motorists and pedestrians so preoccupied with iPods, stereos and cell phones.

They may not notice emergency vehicles are speeding their way.

Some think the Rumbler is downright obnoxious, and that's the point.

"You're looking around, you want to know what's going on. It definitely catches your attention," said Ethel Taylor.

Not everyone is impressed.

"It's a little heavy sounding. I don't notice that much difference," said Shantell Lowery.

Still, it seems to be a hit with officers.

"They noticed right away great results out of it. They were having vehicles that were stopping to look to see and then identifying the cruiser, and that's what  it's all about," said D.C. Police Department fleet manager Greg Hester.

Skeptics will say police should find a better way to spend the money.

D.C. police paid about $350 per cruiser, but officials there say that's not the bottom line.

"Hopefully, it will reduce our accident budget so our cruisers, and our officers aren't involved in accidents, along with pedestrians and other vehicles that's out there," said Hester.

The idea for the rumbler actually came from some highway patrol officers in Florida who thought maybe there was a way to turn distracting sounds into attention getters.