Department of Defense Community and Environmental Noise Primer

Noise Reduction Strategies and Complaint Management

Noise mitigation can take place at the sound source, along the path that the sound travels, or at the receiver. However, these mitigation techniques are limited, and their effectiveness and feasibility are often dependent on the type of sound source and location. At the source, the DoD employs tools such as using inert ammunition and constructing specially designed buildings to quiet jet engine noise associated with maintenance and testing. Establishing distance, maintaining vegetative cover, and building barriers or berms can mitigate sounds along the path. Noise levels can be mitigated at the receiver through construction incorporating noise level reduction features. Although these physical measures can help reduce community exposure to noise when properly implemented, the most effective means of mitigating impacts is through compatible land use planning. DoD conducts a detailed environmental assessment, including analysis of noise, safety, and land use compatibility, before siting any new testing or training activities. It can also be effectively used by neighboring communities through comprehensive plans and land development regulations.

While DoD’s approach to noise management is largely focused on preventative action and mitigation prior to escalation, DoD also addresses noise through complaint resolution. For neighboring communities already significantly impacted by noise, complaint management and frequent communication are essential components of a noise management program and being a good neighbor. The goal of a complaint management program is to handle neighbors’ complaints in ways that will prevent further concern from communities and improve communication. Handling noise complaints is a reactive noise management technique and can involve high-stress communication. Having a detailed communications plan, responding to complaints in a timely manner, and maintaining direct contact with range control, air traffic control, and flight line operations all ensure quick and effective resolution.

Typically, only a small percentage of people who are bothered by noise lodge complaints. The interaction between the military and the complainant can often be positive, especially when the military uses the opportunity to educate the complainant about the importance of the installation’s mission and open up a dialogue. For the installation, a detailed complaint log can provide useful information about noise impacts and help in planning future mitigation activities. By asking specific questions of the complainant, the installation can identify the sound source, the conditions that resulted in the complaint, and other information to support decisions that can reduce future exposure.