For those who are not trained as actual firefighters but still want to assist in this valuable area, it’s possible to become a volunteer firefighter and provide supplementary assistance to the trained professionals. And while those who are doing so have several options for lights they use on their vehicles, there are some important laws and regulations to be aware of here, as the law views volunteer firefighters very differently from professional ones (with good reason).
At LED Equipped, we’re happy to provide a huge range of emergency vehicle LED lights and sirens to clients in various spaces, from emergency LED dash lights to many others. For volunteer firefighters who are thinking about purchasing any such lights or sirens for their vehicles, what do you need to know in terms of legality and safety? Here’s a general primer, plus some information on the benefits of using legal warning lights and some tips on how to find the ideal lights for your needs.
Volunteer Firefighters and Fire Trucks
First and foremost, it’s important for any prospective volunteer firefighter to understand that taking on this role does not qualify you to drive a fire truck. This is a role that’s exclusively reserved for those with suitable training and experience, so if you don’t have these things, it simply won’t be an option for you. Doing so is both illegal and extremely unsafe, given the size of fire trucks and the equipment they carry.
This means that for volunteer firefighters who are serious, outfitting a personal vehicle with LED lights is one of the only ways they can contribute to this effort. Doing so, however, requires a knowledge of some basic laws and requirements.
Are Emergency Lights Legal for Volunteer Firefighters?
Simply put, there’s no single answer to this question — it varies widely, not only between states but even sometimes between local municipalities. Here are some of the limitations that may be placed on both volunteer firefighters and any other use of personal vehicles for similar first response purposes:
- In certain parts of the country, interior LED dash light bars are illegal in any private vehicle or truck — mainly because they look too similar to police lights, and therefore may cause confusion.
- In other areas, LED lights are only permitted to be mounted to the front grill of a vehicle, because they do not attract attention from oncoming traffic or make it difficult for drivers behind to see what’s ahead.
- Other states prohibit any use of strobe lights on personal vehicles for emergency response, as this may be harmful to the health of those who are exposed to it. Since this is a broad category that encompasses all types of flashing lights, including but not limited to LED lights and sirens, many volunteer firefighters in these areas would not be able to use any such devices.
- Certain states also have bans based on colors, and these are common. For instance, it’s almost always illegal in any state to combine blue and red flashing lights, since this is a combination the police typically use. Down similar lines, a red and white flashing light combination is only for ambulances or fire trucks, while amber light bars might be reserved just for tow trucks or other commercial vehicles. If this is the case in your area, you will have to find different light combinations for your personal vehicle.
- It’s also illegal to use LED lights on any private vehicles in some states if they are brightly colored, because this may interfere with the ability of other motorists or first responders to see the car itself. Most notably, it is quite likely that volunteer firefighters will never be allowed to use yellow or green LED strobes or any similar devices, and it is also illegal to use any lights that would tend to mimic those used by the police.
So if you’re thinking about making such purchases for your personal vehicle, be sure you do your research on the law in your area first. It will make things much better if you do this instead of trying to fight a ticket for an offense based on improper knowledge of local laws.
For volunteer responders, the lights used will generally be referred to as “courtesy” lights. They signal to other drivers that they should pull over — but as we’ll go over in our next section, they do not carry the same legal requirements for other drivers as emergency lights for actual fire trucks, ambulances or police vehicles.
Volunteer Firefighters Cannot Run Red Lights
Simply possessing a siren on your personal vehicle does not give you the right to break traffic laws, including running red lights. If you do so, even while flashing lights as a volunteer firefighter, it’s likely that this will result in an accident or at least be very dangerous for other motorists on the road — and more specifically, you will be committing a crime.
The use of courtesy lights, rather, is more of a request to other drivers to pull over and let you by because of your employment as a firefighter, not because they’re required to do so under the law. It’s also common to use such lights in places where traffic is heavy or when there are dangerous weather conditions that may impede visibility.
Now that we’ve gone over all of the above, hopefully you have a good idea of the research and precautions you must take when placing any lights or sirens on your personal vehicle as a volunteer firefighter. If you’re following all these guidelines, however, our next couple sections will go over why LED lights are the best choice here, plus some options available to you.
Benefits of LED Lights for Volunteer Firefighters
Assuming you’re following all local laws and respecting actual first responders, mounting some courtesy lights on your vehicle is a good way to keep things safe when you’re traveling to an emergency. Here are some of the reasons why LED lights stand above other light types for these needs:
- Long-lasting: Compared to other types of lights, LEDs are known to last much longer while using up less energy. This makes them ideal for courtesy lights because you’ll never have to replace or recharge batteries — even if it sits in your garage for an extended period between emergencies.
- Lower power consumption: It’s not just the lifespan of LED lights that makes them better than other options, either — it’s also the amount of electricity they use. You can actually save a little money on your electric bill by using LED courtesy lights, plus they won’t drain your car battery if you forget to turn them off after arriving at the scene of an incident.
- Visibility: The bright light from LEDs will be highly visible even from far away — and LED lights emit light in a specific direction, which means you won’t need reflectors or diffusers to make sure other motorists are able to see you.
- Personalization: LED lights also tend to be very customizable, making it simple for you to change the color or style of courtesy lights on your vehicle.
- Cost efficiency: Finally, any time you can use a product that will save you both time and money, it’s a good idea to go with the more affordable option. LED courtesy lights are inexpensively priced for anyone who wants to purchase them, they’re great at what they do, they last for a long time, and they won’t cost extra on your electric bill.
Options for Volunteer Firefighters
There are a few light options out there for volunteer firefighters — again, as long as you’re following the law. These include grill lights, dash lights, beacon lights, and more. Which you choose will depend on a few factors, from cost vs. usefulness to personal preference.
For more on the rules and regulations surrounding the use of emergency lights on personal vehicles for volunteer firefighters, or to learn about any of our emergency LED lights, sirens or other products, contact the team at LED Equipped today.