Volunteer firefighters are an essential component of America’s emergency response. In fact, you might be surprised to know that nearly 70 percent of the firefighters in the United States are volunteer firefighters. Because of the unique way that volunteers respond to emergency situations, the equipment needs of volunteer firefighters are different from those of ‘traditional’ fire departments. Additionally, local and federal regulations place different sanctions on what type of emergency equipment volunteer firefighters can employ. These regulations apply to volunteer firefighter warning lights and volunteer firefighter emergency lights. Navigating what lights to choose for your volunteer firefighter emergency vehicle can be difficult, so we have put together this comprehensive guide for you to learn everything you need to know about volunteer firefighter emergency safety lights. Read on for more!
What is a Volunteer Firefighter?
Volunteer firefighters generally undergo the same or similar training as career firefighters do. Instead of spending their hours in the firehouse, however, volunteer firefighters typically have separate careers and are simply on call for emergencies that might require their presence. While most volunteer firefighter responders remain on call with no pay, some are compensated for part of their time while others might be compensated for the hours they work when responding to emergency situations.
Volunteer firefighters are contacted via pagers, radios, or even a loud signal like fire sirens when they are being called to respond to an emergency. Most of the time, volunteer firefighters come from wherever they are when they receive the call to the station, where they gear up and head out to the scene of the emergency. While many volunteer firefighters join forces with full-time employees at traditional fire stations, others converge at volunteer fire departments. Whatever the case, both types of fire station will typically have a fire fighting apparatus outfitted with standard equipment including emergency lighting. However, response times for volunteer fire departments tend to be slower than that of full-time departments, since the members must get to the station from different locations before heading out to fight the fire.
What are the Special Lighting Needs of Volunteer Firefighters?
While the emergency lighting on most large fire fighting apparatus is generally similar, volunteer firefighters require different types of lights. When volunteer firefighters are called to an emergency, they need to be able to safely and efficiently make it to the station in their personal vehicles. But because of local laws and restrictions, most are only able to use very specific types of lighting to alert other drivers on the roadway. These restrictions vary greatly from state to state and even city to city, but most states implement some basic restrictions on the colors and styles of flashing lights volunteer firefighters are allowed to use.
Because of these special requirements, and because they use their personal vehicles, volunteer firefighters tend to use low-profile, low energy-consumption lights on their personal vehicles when they are driving to the station in response to emergency calls. In the following content of this article, we will dive into why LED technology is the best choice for volunteer firefighter lights, and outline the most common and best firefighter lights used by volunteer firefighters.
Why is LED Technology the Best Choice for Volunteer Firefighter Emergency Lights?
One question we get asked a lot by customers here at LED Equipped is: Why LEDs? LEDs are rapidly expanding as the preferred lighting choice for many industries, but there are some applications when their benefits really make them the undisputable best option available. In the case of firefighter lights for volunteers, LEDs are far and away the most logical lighting solution. Here’s why:
Compact, Durable Bulbs
Whereas other forms of lighting, such as halogen, high-intensity diode (HID), and incandescent utilize large bulbs made with highly breakable filaments, LED lights are quite different. LED stands for light emitting diode. Each tiny LED bulb contains a semiconductor unit. Semiconductors are devices which convert heat into light. Light emitting diodes are much more efficient at performing this conversion than other types of lighting, which means that they are able to produce more light, despite their tiny size. But the benefits of the tiny bulbs don’t stop there. LEDs usually come encased in a housing of some sort to protect the lighting apparatus from the elements. Thanks to their tiny size, LEDs can be configured into virtually endless different arrays, depending on the size, shape, and function of the light needed. Furthermore, LED’s don’t use breakable filaments to produce light, and the diodes themselves are vibration proof.
All this is really exciting news for lighting applications such as for volunteer firefighters, who need compact, easily deployable lights that are able to fit into discreet areas on their vehicles, and can withstand the elements of fast driving and exposure to weather. With LED technology, lights can be created that are not only able to tackle the harsh conditions of volunteer firefighting, but also shaped well to fit discreetly in personal vehicles – all without sacrificing any brightness.
Your LED volunteer firefighter emergency lights will need to produce enough light to easily alert local motorists of your vehicle’s presence. But since you will likely be running these lights off of your vehicle’s 12-volt power supply, you also need them to not drain your battery. With the incredible efficiency of LED technology, you will be able to do just this.
Efficiency when it comes to lighting is all about how much light can be produced, per unit of energy drawn. Recent studies have shown that LED lights are capable of producing the same number of lumens (a measurement of light output) as other types of lighting, while using just 20-30 percent of the battery power. While LED firefighter lights for volunteers will likely cost slightly more than halogen, incandescent, or HID type lighting – the reduction in energy consumption you get with LEDs could be the difference between having to upgrade your entire battery and alternator system to deal with the additional energy load. So, while you pay slightly more for the LED volunteer firefighter emergency lights, you save big by avoiding costly upgrades to your personal vehicle.
Still not convinced that LEDs are the more economical choice for your new volunteer firefighter warning lights? Consider this: LED bulbs consistently last 30,000 – 50,000 working hours. That is five to ten times the average lifespan of other emergency lights! Not only can you rest assured that your LED warning lights will continue to turn on and function properly when you most need them, you also have peace of mind that you have made the best decision for your wallet. While others are buying replacement bulbs and emergency warning lights, your trusty LEDs will continue to function properly for years to come. In the case of volunteer firefighter emergency lights, you will usually only be running the lights for short periods of time when you are driving to the station, so it is quite possible that your new lights could end up outlasting the service vehicle they are used on.
What To Consider Before Buying LED Volunteer Firefighter Emergency Lights
So, you are ready to invest in some new LED lights for your volunteer firefighting emergency vehicle. What should be considered before heading over to the LED Equipped products page and picking some out?
Be sure to make a plan for how you will mount your ned emergency lights. Will these lights be permanently mounted to the vehicle, or will they stow away when not in use? Measure the area you wish to mount your lights and check what, if any, hardware is included with your light purchase. If you are purchasing a stowaway light that can be deployed in emergency situations on the roof or dash, how will it stay put while in use? Magnets are a popular option for this type of emergency warning light. Be sure to consider your mounting options carefully before choosing a light for your vehicle!
Laws and Restrictions
It is extremely important to check with local and state officials to get informed on your area’s laws regarding volunteer firefighter emergency lights. If you fail to do so, you could end up being pulled over by police while you are rushing to go fight a fire or respond to an emergency. Worse, you could put yourself and others in danger. Regulations on volunteer firefighter lights vary greatly, but nearly all states do have restrictions regarding the colors, flash patterns, and styles of lights that volunteer firefighters are allowed to deploy on their personal vehicles.
Furthermore, displaying legal emergency lights on your vehicle does not mean that you do not have to obey traffic laws on your way to the emergency or fire station. In fact, most states still require vehicles displaying such lights to stop at all traffic signs, stop lights, and to obey all speed and traffic regulations. That being said, it is worth checking with local officials to see whether displaying courtesy lights on your volunteer firefighter vehicle grants you any special rights so you are able to make it to the station more quickly.
Best Types of Emergency Lighting for Volunteer Firefighters
After considering your mounting options and ensuring that the lights they want are street legal, most volunteer firefighters choose the following types of lights for their vehicles.
Grill lights are highly customizable emergency lights that are extremely slim, short, and simple to mount. They get their name from their most common mounting location, which is in within the grill of emergency vehicles. Grill lights can also be mounted on bumpers and dashboards. LED Equipped sells grill lights that can be paired with multiple others to function in unison with each other. They also have a multitude of different flash patterns and colors to choose from.
Running Board Lights
Running board lights are a great option for volunteer firefighter warning lights. As the name suggests, they attach to the running boards of your vehicle. Running boards are long, narrow steps which run down the sides of the rescue vehicles that utilize them. By attaching LED warning lights to the running boards, you illuminate the sides of your vehicle, making them easier for other motorists to see and avoid. Running board lights, like grill lights, are great for volunteer firefighters because they are low profile and don’t look like much when not in use.
Beacon lights are a classic option for many volunteer firefighters. These are the type of emergency lights you might recognize from old movies, in which police officers deploy them on the roof as they respond to an emergency. LED Equipped sells a high-quality beacon light which simply plugs into your cigarette lighter, and includes magnets for temporary mounting. With this easily stowable lighting option, you can keep your personal vehicle unaltered and just use your light for rescue and emergencies.