New Myrtle Beach police technology lets drivers ‘feel’ sirens

The Myrtle Beach Police department will soon have two new high-tech tools: sonar and low-frequency siren emitters.

Local police will begin using a low-frequency siren called a “howler.” Police Chief Warren Gall said that the howler, which will emit siren sounds at a lower register in tandem with a normal siren, will help keep drivers safe when emergency vehicles go out on a call.

“This sends out a, for a lack of a better term, a vibration. It’s a low-end noise that comes in accompanied with the siren, and it literally -- you feel it,” Gall said at City Council’s Tuesday morning workshop. “So you’ll feel it coming, and it makes you more aware to turn your attention to what’s going on around you.”

The sensation from the howler is similar to hearing a nearby car playing loud music with a lot of bass, Lt. Joey Crosby of the Myrtle Beach Police Department said. He also said officers have had issues with other drivers on the road not yielding when they have their sirens turned on. The goal is to install the lower-frequency sirens on all vehicles, but it will first be attached to the siren systems of waterfront patrol and traffic vehicles.

Purchasing howler systems is expected to cost $31,000.

The other new equipment, the sonar, will be used in the case of a missing swimmer, Crosby said.

“You could also use it for various recovery missions and for various things that could be in the water. The possibilities are limitless,” Crosby said.

Police plan to outfit one boat with the system, which will cost an estimated $23,000. While some nearby law enforcement and first responders have sonar that Myrtle Beach might share, Crosby said that in an emergency, the U.S. Coast Guard would typically lend the city a helicopter instead of a sonar-equipped boat.

“To get the boat within this area is time-consuming,” Crosby said. “In the case of a missing swimmer, time is valuable. Time is of the essence.”

The money for the howlers will come from a Justice Department grant, while funds for the sonar will come from federal drug seizure funds and money made selling some surplus police equipment, Crosby said. Sonar funds are appropriated from the 2015-2016 budget, which officially expires July 1.

City Council passed funding approval for both items in its Tuesday meeting. City spokesman Mark Kruea said that even though the grant money for the howler consists of federal funds, the city still needed to weigh in.

“The federal government wants acknowledgment that the city is approving the request for a new piece of equipment or the expenditure of certain money,” he said.

Crosby said Myrtle Beach police will buy the sonar and the howler as soon as the funds are made available.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJohnson