News / Calgary

Cochrane man on a mission to eliminate the backup-beep

Kevin Shier is championing white noise alarms which alert people to a reversing vehicle

Kevin Shire has become a distributor for white noise backup alarms because he has seen the demand for the product, and other auto parts stores don't carry them. He's rigged up a demonstration board that hooks into his SUV.

Jennifer Friesen / Calgary Freelance

Kevin Shire has become a distributor for white noise backup alarms because he has seen the demand for the product, and other auto parts stores don't carry them. He's rigged up a demonstration board that hooks into his SUV.

Have you ever been woken at 3 a.m. by the backup-beep of snow clearing equipment working outside your home?

Kevin Shier knows the sound all too well. The Cochrane resident grew tired of hearing backup beeps at all hours in the ever-growing bedroom community northwest of Calgary.

“We had people moving out of the neighborhood because they were so ticked off with the noise,” he said.

It wasn’t the thumping and banging coming from industrial sites that bothered people, but the mandated high-pitched backup alarm on industrial vehicles and forklifts.

Shier looked for a solution to the problem and found it in the United Kingdom, where white noise backup alarms have become the norm on industrial sites.

Instead of the usual high-pitched tone, it makes an equally loud but less piercing shushing noise. It’s not unlike radio static, or the noise Darth Vader makes when he breathes.

Shire said a single tonal alarm will echo all across the hills of Cochrane, but the sound from white noise alarms tends not to echo.

It took a few years, but after consulting with government officials and insurance companies, he and a few other residents got some local businesses to test and then voluntarily adopt the white noise alarms.

Kim Radloff, fleet co-ordinator with town of Cochrane, said the town has had them installed on all their vehicles for about two years, and they’re more than happy with the change.

He said at first there was reluctance from just about everyone in the organization to make the switch, but once they tested them they were convinced it was a better technology.

“I wouldn’t go back to a traditional tone alarm,” said Radloff.

Cochrane town councillor Tara McFadden said the switch in town allows for more mixed use communities. They’re able to zone light industrial near commercial and residential areas.

She said one of the newest developments in town is planning just such a mix.

“It will be a desirable place to be, unless we’ve got sound issues that affect quality of life,” she said.

Shier is now a distributor for the white noise alarms, but only because he couldn’t find them at auto supply stores.

“I don’t really care if I sell any in the local market – but I also know without bringing in a box, nobody will try them,” he said.

Swapping one out on a vehicle is as simple as connecting two wires and tightening some bolts.

Shire would eventually like to see them become the norm in the province, and he’s hoping the town council will pass a bylaw making them mandatory. That will mean contractors who want to work in town limits will need to adopt the technology.

“My feeling is that the beeping should be treated like smoking - it’s noise pollution,” he said.

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