Volunteer firefighters regularly put their lives on the line for residents in their community without the expectation of being paid or compensated in any way. On top of that, these brave first responders face a host of logistical and financial challenges, many of which involve their need for – and their ability to utilize – emergency lights.
A portion of these challenges center around the firetrucks and other emergency vehicles used when responding to a call. But volunteer firefighters also face challenges related to their personal vehicles, which they must use to get to the firehouse when an emergency strikes.
Unfortunately, most states have implemented restrictive legislation that limits the ability of volunteers to use emergency lighting in their personal vehicles when responding to a call.
For Volunteer Firefighters, Emergency Lights Are Considered “Courtesy Lights”
Awakened from a deep sleep in the middle of the night, volunteer firefighters must jump into their personal vehicle and get to the station as quickly as possible because, in most cases, someone’s life is on the line.
But, due to the laws adopted by most states, volunteers cannot utilize emergency vehicle lights to obtain right-of-way. Instead, they are allowed a limited amount of low-key “courtesy lights” to request right-of-way.
In an emergency situation, having the correct type of lights is essential so that, when volunteer firefighters are called to the station or scene of an incident, they can make it there quickly and safely. The correct lighting helps make this possible, ensuring visibility and clearance on the road.
When equipping a personal vehicle with emergency lights, however, firefighters need to be careful. Federal, state and local laws regulate the types of equipment that volunteers can use, and lighting is no exception. If you’re trying to figure out which safety lights are acceptable – and which are the best options – the following guide from the professional team at LED Equipped should provide the information you need.
What Are the Laws on Emergency Lights for Volunteer Firefighters?
We would love to tell you exactly which lighting options firefighters can choose for their personal vehicles, but regulations and restrictions vary by locality. Emergency lights that are allowed in one city or state might be illegal in another – so you will have to do your research before making a purchase.
Most states and localities restrict the styles, colors and flash patterns of emergency lights that volunteer firefighters can use. Checking with local and state officials to learn the laws for your area is well-worth your time. If you skip this step and end up choosing safety lighting that is not street legal, the police could pull you over when you are on your way to fight a fire, delaying your efforts to assist with the emergency.
Do Emergency Lights Grant Firefighters Special Driving Rights?
Contrary to popular belief, driving a personal vehicle equipped with emergency lights does not give volunteer firefighters the legal right to skip stop signs and drive at high speeds. Though other drivers will pull to the side of the road when they see you coming, you are still expected to obey the local traffic laws.
However, in some areas, volunteer firefighters are granted special road privileges when on their way to a fire or the site of an emergency. So, asking local officials about the policies on driving with safety lights could be to your benefit.
What Emergency Lighting Options Do Volunteer Firefighters Have?
Once you learn which types of lighting are legally acceptable in your area, you’ll be ready to start shopping. In our experience, volunteer firefighters usually opt for one of the following types of emergency lights:
If you want to keep your personal vehicle unaltered, a beacon light is what you need. This option has no permanent mount – instead, magnets hold it in place on the roof. For power, simply plug the unit into your cigarette lighter outlet. At LED Equipped, we have a high-quality beacon light you can easily store and quickly put to use whenever necessary.
Dash lights are another option that will not permanently affect your vehicle. Most draw power from the cigarette lighter outlet and feature suction cups to stay in place on the dashboard or inside the windshield. The lighting strips are narrow, and LED Equipped offers dash lights in a range of lengths between five and 38 inches.
For a more permanent option, volunteer firefighters often go for grill lights. Named for the most common placement – a vehicle’s grill — this type of emergency lighting has a low profile and is easy to mount. Grill lights can also be placed on the dashboard or bumper, and LED Equipped sells models that are compatible to allow for synchronized operation.
Running Board Lights
If your vehicle has running boards – or long, narrow steps along the sides – emergency lights designed to attach can be a smart option. After mounting running board lights, other drivers will easily see your vehicle coming down the road. Here at LED Equipped, the models we sell are slim enough to virtually disappear when not in use.
Why Do Volunteer Firefighters Choose LED Emergency Lights?
Regardless of whether volunteer firefighters decide upon beacon lights, dash lights, grill lights or running board lights, LEDs are the most popular option – and for several very good reasons.
LED emergency lights are highly energy-efficient, have an extremely long lifespan and are known to be quite ruged. Compared to the alternatives, LEDs always come out on top. Here’s a closer look at what makes them the best choice for firefighters.
When you are on your way to fight a fire, you need other drivers to see your vehicle and move out of the way. LED emergency lights offer maximum visibility both during the day and at night, exactly what volunteer firefighters need.
Firefighters often face difficult drives, as many roads are not as well-maintained as they should be. With LED emergency lights, you will not have to worry about damage as you roll over the potholes and bumps – the components are incredibly durable.
Some lighting options have components that crack in cold temperatures, and others require a warm-up period before providing illumination. LED emergency lights do not have these issues, as they are designed for temperature tolerance and instant light.
LED emergency lighting requires very little power, as they can produce a large amount of light with a small amount of energy. If your vehicle has multiple lights, sirens and other power-hungry devices onboard, choosing LEDs can ensure you have the brightness you need without draining your battery.
Due to their superior design, LED emergency lights last a great deal longer than other lighting options. Since firefighters frequently need to run lights for considerable periods of time, going with an option that requires replacement much less often makes perfect sense.
What Should Firefighters Consider When Shopping for LED Emergency Lights?
Before you browse the available LED lighting options for your vehicle, you will first need to decide whether you want stowable emergency lights or a more permanent solution.
There are pros and cons to each choice. For some firefighters, the idea of attaching lights to a personal vehicle is completely abhorrent. For others, permanent mounts may not be possible, due to the type or condition of the vehicle they drive. On the other hand, some volunteer firefighters do not want to deal with stowable lights – they would prefer a simple solution that stays in place.
Cost is, of course, an important factor. Many volunteer firefighters receive no pay or minimal compensation for their work, and everyone has a budget to meet. LED emergency lights can come at a higher price than some alternatives, but when you factor in their longevity, LEDs are more cost-effective.
One final tip – make sure you take careful measurements of your vehicle and check out the mounting hardware included (if any) before purchasing emergency lights. While some companies, including LED Equipped, have favorable return policies, others do not. And in any case, shipping products back and exchanging them for others means you will have to wait longer to equip your vehicle.
How Can Volunteer Firefighters Meet Their Emergency Light Needs?
Choosing the right types of LED lights can be a challenge for any firefighter. For expert help finding the ideal emergency lighting solution, turn to the professional team at LED Equipped.
As the preferred source for LED safety lights for fire departments across the country, LED Equipped understands the unique needs of volunteer firefighters. If you are ready to outfit your personal vehicle with lighting, we can help you select products that meet your requirements and fit your budget.
At LED Equipped, every product we sell comes with a 3-year warranty. To browse our vast selection of high-quality LED lights, or to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable associates about emergency lights for volunteer firefighters, contact us today.