Hello everyone, for today’s blog post I wanted to talk a little bit about the basics of emergency lighting. The inspiration for this post is we recently saw an emergency vehicle lighting up fit that was…not good. Unfortunately, we don’t have permission to post pictures of it so those won’t be available. Sorry :(
We are very passionate about our vehicles here at Defender Product Solutions, LLC (defenderps.com). I cannot help but pass an emergency vehicle and quickly attempt to analyze which police lights, fire truck lights, or led beacons they are using. When I see something not right, I instantly feel bad for the operator. But like all industries not using a knowledgeable professional or not doing your own personal research can result in sub-par vehicles.
The main purpose of your emergency vehicle’s lights and siren is to keep you, and the public safe. That goal sounds simple enough. The main goal needs to be broken down into additional objectives for different sections of the vehicle and what the job of that equipment is. For instance, what am I trying to accomplish with these strobe lights or led grille lights.
First let’s talk about who you purchase from for your vehicle. Being a USA company and being patriotic we will ALWAYS suggest buying USA made products. I was quite said to see a Code3 controller in this vehicle with a large sticker on it that said, “Made in China.” It has been rumored for some time now, since Code3 was bought out, that Code3 products might be made in China and unfortunately it appears that has started to happen. What percentage of components or whole products are made in China, I don’t know.
Right Product. Right Place.
Secondly, specific products, especially emergency vehicle lights, often have a specific purpose. Understanding different lights perform differently in different environments and locations on the vehicle; will help you to achieve the safest and most efficiently lit vehicle.
Some people think a light, is a light, is a light. As long and it flashes and it’s the right color it’ll do! Of course there’s more to it than that! Optics of the light head are important. Many companies are making differing degree optics to get a customizable light spread from the LED warning light. (Take a look on our article on the Feniex Fusion Surface Mounts or Feniex Cannon’s for a little more on that.) If the goal of the warning light is to have a large off angle warning, you’ll want a higher degree lens such as the Feniex Fusion Surface Mount 180 degree. If you need a light to punch through window tint, or high powered straight on warning, go for a lower degree lens, such as the Feniex Fusion Surface Mount 40 degree. Another option for exterior lighting is a thin lens or a ‘flush lens’. The purpose of thin lights really is limited. The lack of a real lens acts as just a wide flood of light that isn’t directed anywhere specific. Up close it will be bright, but from a far it will do nothing to help distinguish the body lines of the Emergency Vehicle and will appear to just be a blob of light. Where the thin emergency lights work best, are areas such as door and rear hatch panels where clearances are tight. Thin warning lights are great for the rear hatch on Ford Explorers or Chevy Tahoe’s. When you lift the hatch, with proper wiring, the thin lights will activate as the hatch rises. The hatch will typically hide the external light bar. This offers you some warning light protection while digging through the trunk. This vehicle we saw that hurt our soul had the thin led warning lights everywhere! When the light is turned on, from a far it’s just one ball of light. You cannot tell where the vehicle is and most importantly you cannot see any pedestrians near the vehicle.
This vehicle had a rapid flash pattern of dual color LED warning lights. Dual color LEDs are a great feature when used correctly. When using a red and blue color scheme, one thing to watch out for is making the flash pattern alternate between the two colors too quickly. This will produce a purple light from a far. Rapidly flashing lights while attention getting, can also confuse drivers due to the difficulty of seeing around the emergency vehicle.
Location, Location, Location.
The placement of the emergency warning light on the vehicle is another important consideration. While we already discussed optics above, you need to consider the optic of your light while placing the light. If you light head has an optic that spreads light horizontally in a flood like manner, you will be doing your vehicle a disservice by mounting that light vertically. Also, if you are mounting a light directly to the body of the vehicle, pay attention to the angle of that body panel. A light angled predominately down, or up, will be great for landing airplanes but not very effective for road traffic coming straight at you. Another popular technique is LED grille lights. Inside the grille area is a great spot for hide-away lighting. It is difficult to see the lights hidden in that area for undercover vehicles. I want to emphasis the difficult to see part, because when activated, they will still be difficult to see unless you are looking straight at the vehicle. If mounting lights behind the grille, use an optic that will project the beam straight, don’t use a flood optic. Also understanding that hidden away in the grille the warning light will offer little to no off angle warning. This is fine so long as you take steps to increase your side and corner lighting.
What this all boils down to is the customer-installer relationship. This vehicle never should have made it out of the shop with all those problems. Now they agency will be dealing with less than adequate lighting for several years. A knowledgeable installer is the most important factor when building Emergency Vehicles. In this case, the installer should have contacted the customer and informed them their selected products were not going to perform to their optimal levels and suggested alternatives. Not everyone is an emergency light and equipment guru, and there is no problem with that! A little communication about the project and goals of the vehicle will go a long way to ensuring a successful build. We should all be on the same team and playing for safety!
With that in mind, if you ever have any questions about the specifications, placement, quality or installation of a light, let us know. We’ll help you pick out the right light among a sea of bright choices! Stay Safe!