People have found many creative and useful ways to harness the power of artificial lights. Besides enabling us to move and be active in pitch black darkness, one of the most important uses of lights is also signalling. For that reason, there are specially designed warning lights that can be used in vehicles, such as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances to ensure visibility and demand priority in traffic. Warning lights can also be used on construction sites to signal that there is work in progress and point out certain dangerous spots. Not to mention how they are an important part of a building’s fire safety code that signals there’s danger approaching and everyone should evacuate.
Whatever their use, all warning lights have to meet certain requirements:
- Visibility – Grabbing everyone’s attention within it’s vicinity, but also hundreds of meters away;
- Brightness – Offering seeing conditions for efficient building evacuations or field activities of emergency services;
- Durability – Dependable at all times and not requiring regular changing.
After we’ve outlined all the basic characteristics and functions of warning lights, let’s take a look at the two most popular types and how they compare.
LED technology is famous for being the champion of longevity, boasting with 50 000 hours worth of life span. There are many reasons why LED-based lighting is the most popular choice for many emergency services. For starters, warning LED lights tick the box of durability. Their diodes are very small and the overall design of the light is incredibly thin, which reduces wind resistance up to 10% and helps save fuel. Because of their small size, warning LED lights are virtually invisible on the deck of the car when not in use. Another thing that makes LED lights perfect for emergency situations, is that they instantly light up when switched on, as opposed to strobes which need time to reach their full capacity. The advances in LED technology have made these lights incredibly powerful and visible half a kilometre away even in broad daylight.
There’s also emergency lighting centred around strobe tubes, similar to the lights used in flash photography. Strobe warning lights are basically xenon flash lamps which manage to give out brief but bright flashes by ionizing and then sending out a current through the gas. This means that strobe lights take some time in order to fully light up. Xenon as a gas has a rather short lifespan and a huge energy consumption, similar to incandescent bulbs, which can be very demanding on a car’s alternator. Concerning brightness, these lights are some of the most powerful ones, however, their downside is that they are limited to flashing in one pattern and cannot be customized like LED ones.