By Jason Cohen
The emergency horn in Verona is once again back in business. After being shuttered for a year, it began blasting in January.
“It is great to have the horn back in service because it had and always will benefit the town and the fire department,” said Fire Chief Charles Magatti. “The horn allows members the ability to know when there is a call, if they are not by their radio or phone, and they must report to their respective stations; therefore, allowing us to better serve the town in terms of emergencies.”
The horn, which was a staple in Verona since the 1920’s or 1930’s, rang when there was an emergency. As technology changed, so did the horn. Emergency responders were given a two-way radio and information was also sent out via text message. Then in 2014, horn blasts were changed to a 3-1-3 to let first responders know that they were needed, with the radios and text messages providing more information.
According to Township Manager Matt Cavallo, the horn was out of service due to the renovation of the police communication center and upgrades to the horn hardware and controls. In late January the repairs were completed and the horn, which is located at Verona Town Hall, was reactivated. Cavallo said Verona spent $14,000 to fix the horn because its compressor and air storage tank both needed to be replaced. It is used from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mayor Kevin Ryan explained that when he first heard that the fire department wanted to reactivate the horn he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. He told the Verona News that the township had recently upgraded their radio and paging devices and therefore asked the fire and rescue squad to explain why this was a good idea.
Ryan asked for a public presentation about this issue. On Sept. 13, 2016 former Verona Fire Chief Pat McEvoy spoke at a council meeting about the horn. McEvoy, who served as a fireman for 25 years, knew how important the horn was.
“He said there were times during the day that the volunteers may not have had immediate access to their communications equipment,” Ryan said. “The sound of the horn however, gave greater coverage and alerted them to respond. This problem usually took place during the daytime hours so the horn would only be needed then. During an emergency, the response time is critical and even a few minutes could be a matter of saving a life or mitigating severe property damage.
“The chief basically convinced me and the rest of the council that the cost of reviving the horn and the intrusive sound it made was a small price to pay for the extra level of public safety it provided,” Ryan added.