What are those large yellow horns anyway?

A reader asked what these were, so we found out. TIM GOODWIN / Insider staff
A reader asked what these were, so we found out. TIM GOODWIN / Insider staff
A reader asked what these were, so we found out. TIM GOODWIN / Insider staff
A reader asked what these were, so we found out. TIM GOODWIN / Insider staff

A while back, we got an email from a reader named Jeff.

He was curious about the yellow siren horn attached to a telephone pole at the corner of North State Street and Horseshoe Pond Lane. At first he thought it had something to do with Concord Fire Department’s Central Station near by, but then he saw one by Rolfe Park along Community Drive in Penacook, which is nowhere near a fire station. He said he had tried to research and find out what they are, but with no success.

So he wanted our help. We had no idea, and meant to look into it a little while ago, but it kind of got lost in the shuffle – until we had the idea for this issue.

To be honest, we had never noticed a large yellow siren horn thing near the Pierce Manse and we’ve driven on that road countless times. So of course, we went out to investigate and sure enough, it does exist. Now it was time to figure out what it was used for.

Not really sure who to call, since there isn’t a yellow horn division in the city, we called Beth Fenstermacher, assistant city planner, because she has been helpful on many fronts in the past and we had to start somewhere.

She wasn’t sure, but offered to help find out. Not too long after that, we got a call from Concord Fire Chief Dan Andrus.

Through conversations with Capt. Rick Wollert and former fire chief Allan Hall, Andrus found out some great info for us.

There are actually five units still around the city – the two mentioned above, at the former Eastman School, on Hutchins Street by the water plant and at Rollins Park – but that one no longer has its horn. It’s a good thing that Jeff emailed us when he did, because the horns are scheduled to be removed as early as next summer. St. Paul’s School also has one, which was the focus of an Insider Revelator back in 2011.

The system dates back to the World War II when communities were threatened with the prospect of an enemy aerial attack.

A siren test was conducted every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. and consisted of an alert (a steady continuous tone for 3 to 5 minutes) and an attack signal (a series of short siren bursts). In 1950, a revision by the Civil Defense Administration changed the attack alert term to “red alert” and added an all clear signal of three, one-minute activations with a two minute interval between the first and second and second and third activations.

From what Andrus could find out, he was told that the sirens were last maintained in the late 1980s. They were sirens only, with no public address capability.

And from his sources, it does not appear that the sirens were ever used for an actual emergency.

While the horns serve no purpose these days, it does give you a look into the past, when other avenues were needed to spread important information before the advent of Facebook, Twitter and even the Internet.

Hope this helps, Jeff. Cross it off your list of mysterious things you’ve found around Concord.

Author: Tim Goodwin

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1 Comment

  1. In West Concord the horn would blow weekdays at 5:00 PM. As a kid we were to go home for super when we heard it. This was in the early 70’s.

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