Handling Noise Complaints

Article 3 min
Noise complaints are almost inevitable when it comes to the operations of military bases and the Department of Defense. Aircraft noise, artillery fire, explosives and construction are sources of high-decibel noise. It's important to prepare military members, families and local citizens before, during and after exposing them to these disturbances to mitigate stress for you and the community. Minimize and address noise complaints by educating the community, listening and responding to callers respectfully and logging and assessing compliant data.

When military events cause increased noise, installations often experience an elevation of phone calls from concerned community members. It is essential to develop a systematic method for noting the details of noise complaints, asking questions to confirm the base is responsible and providing an answer to the caller within a reasonable time frame. Army Regulation 200-1 and Air Force Instruction 35-101, for example, direct installations to monitor, record, archive and address operational noise complaints.

Many see fielding noise complaints as a reactive process, but the work begins well before a civilian picks up the phone. Start by establishing and maintaining strong community relations. Let the area residents know the installation/garrison commander cares about the local community, and wants to hear and address their concerns. In other words, grease the wheels early to bolster understanding and enthusiasm between the military and its civilians.

Handling noise complaints can involve high-stress communication. Those who answer a call from a citizen with a noise complaint need to be patient, empathetic and respectful. Public Affairs Specialists should take concerns seriously and maintain a calm demeanor and tone. Remember, individuals may respond to the same sound quite differently, and their perception is their reality.

Review these best practices for noise complaints before, during and after they occur.

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Best Practices for Noise Complaints


Track scheduled exercises and construction to get ahead of the noise complaints. To reduce the number of noise complaints, use these tips to inform the community.

  • Publicize that public affairs is the single point of contact for handling noise concerns and answering questions about an installation's relationship and participation with the local community
  • Send out PSAs on multiple platforms that warn of disruptive or ongoing noise
    • If possible, explain the purpose of the noise and how it serves the military and/or the public

DuringKeep Cool

When receiving a noise complaint, use these tips for addressing caller concerns.

  • After confirming the installation is responsible for the noise, provide information and context
    • Confirm, based on the caller's information, that the base was the source of the noise
    • Explain what training exercise is responsible for the noise
    • Explain why such training is necessary
    • Note how often the exercise is scheduled/the total duration of the exercise
  • Be courteous and honest about needing to take down information first, and that follow-up with an answer will be provided
  • Keep a calm tone and avoid sounding defensive
  • Do not selectively release information
  • Never lie or stretch the truth
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep - remember that follow-up will be the space for more in-depth discussion
  • Maintain current fact sheets and questions/answers
  • If the caller would like a follow-up answer, let them know that a detailed log of complaints is kept and regularly reported to the command group
  • Take down as much information as possible, including contact information, address, description of aircraft or source of the noise, time, date, etc.


After the noise complaints come in, evaluate them and reflect on how to better reach the community with future PSAs.

  • Consider creating a webpage where civilians can submit a complaint form like this one
    • Track those forms in one place for ease of reference
  • Maintain a detailed complaint log to plan for future mitigation activities
  • Maintain regular dialogue with the command group and community councils on trends, spikes in volume or other significant details
  • If a PSA preceded the noise, re-evaluate how to more effectively spread the information next time
    • Ask the caller if they received the base notification prior to the noise
    • If they didn't, ask them how they best access news about base events
  • If proactive community involvement did not prevent the caller from becoming excessively annoyed, the installation-community relationship requires repair
    • If a caller doesn't feel their concerns are heard or if there isn't resolution, they will likely call their elected official
    • In this case, it will be important to show a comprehensive and detailed log to show what actions the military is taking

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