BU researcher develops app to track fireworks in Boston

BOSTON — It’s happening in small towns and big cities and they are the sound of the summer this year.

Fireworks piercing the skies of Boston. Night after night after night.

“A pop-up will happen here, a pop up will happen there, but it’s consistently inconsistent in a sense that it just happens at all times of the day and it’s been that way for the past couple of weeks,” said Erica Walker.

Walker is a public health researcher and founded the Community Noise Lab at the Boston University School of Public Health.

She developed an app called NoiseScore to gather data and understand how and to what extent fireworks are impacting our mental and physical health.

The free app allows users to pinpoint their location, record a fireworks noise level and describe how it makes them feel. They then upload it to a data base.

“The idea is just to get the data into the hands of people who can bring about effective policy around community noise and sound issues,” Walker said.

According to Walker, on average, daytime sound levels in the City of Boston are 62 decibels.

At night it’s 58. However, sound from fireworks can reach 150 decibels. Through the data, a heat map shows the intensity of the noise in certain neighborhoods.

“We are just seeing areas where they’re the worst, you can see like in Roxbury, Dorchester area and Jamaica Plain area the fireworks are terrible. Not only are they loud, but people are saying they’re disrupting their peace and tranquility,” Walker said.

So far, through the app, Walker has analyzed about 1,500 noise complaints over the past two weeks around firework activity in Boston.


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