Deciding on lights for off road emergency vehicles can be a careful balance between the need for durability and the need for visibility. Traditionally, older model light bars involved a lot of moving parts that did not play well with the roughness of the off road or abnormal road environment. Technology, though, has changed and an LED light bar may now serve needs that previously could not be met. Here we will explore some of the options and situations in which considering an LED light bar for your off road emergency vehicle is the right choice.
First off, we should establish what it is that separates a modern LED light bar from the traditional models most people imagine when they think of emergency vehicle lights. Most people, when they think of light bars, think of bulky old police and firetruck lights with rotating reflectors on the inside and large plastic encasements. Many emergency services departments still use these outdated light bars, and the common mental image and awareness of light bars hasn’t changed much because newer models are so sleek and comparatively compact that they go unnoticed.
A modern LED light bar is more durable, cheaper to maintain, more resistant to extreme temperatures, and significantly more customizable than older models. LED bars are comprised of arrays of small LED bulbs. LED bulbs have no moving parts and do not use filaments like incandescent bulbs do. As a result, they do not “burn out” nearly as frequently, and they are very resistant to jostling that can occur off road or in non-ideal road conditions. Another benefit of being constructed of an array of tiny bulbs is that spare bulbs can be stored easily, and repair can be done on-the-spot should damage even occur in the first place. Additionally, LEDs are capable of being considerably brighter than incandescent models with less energy usage. While lower energy use may not seem serious when consistently driving on highways, when in off road conditions, a dead battery can be a serious hindrance to your work.
It should be noted that another benefit of LED bars, while not directly tied to their off road capabilities, is the recyclability and environmental friendliness of LED bulbs. If your department is working in rural or wilderness environments, then you will no doubt be very sensitive to the need to preserve our natural environment. LEDs can help with that.
Now that we know what separates an LED light bar from a traditional light bar, we can begin to determine if it is appropriate for your use. This question really boils down to the individual needs of your department, and the vehicles you will be using. It’s important to carefully consider the needs of your department before investing in any equipment purchase, but even moreso with light bars that will likely be mounted to the vehicle in a semi-permanent manner.
Following are some examples of scenarios and department demands for which an LED light bar could be most useful. If you are working in a heavily forested, rural town with heavy winters, you might find your department employing snow-mobiles or even all-terrain vehicles in order to provide service to commonly used trails. These types of vehicles could benefit from smaller LED bars which will allow them to indicate approach to trail junctures or intersections, as well as give warning to possible motorists that a police vehicle is approaching. Similarly, if you are working in a town where many houses or farms are located on dirt or gravel roads, your department’s daily work will likely involve driving across particularly rough patches of road. In this case, your town has the same needs for light bars as any other town, with the exception that older, non-LED based light bars might become damaged or have shortened lives as a result of road conditions jostling the bulbs and filaments.
In any of the above cases, an LED bar is likely to be very useful to you. However, there are some situations in which LED bars, and potentially all types of light bar, would not be appropriate at all. In the case of undercover situations in rural areas, a traditional, top-mounted light bar is not ideal in any way. More so for bulkier styles of light bars, which can be a dead giveaway that an emergency vehicle is present. In a condition like this, it might be worth considering internally mounted LED flashers, instead of exterior mounted light bars. Smaller light types can be easier to conceal and can help undercover emergency services workers maintain their undercover status.
There are an incredible number of benefits for choosing an LED bar for your department’s off road needs. Now it’s up to you if you want to take the opportunity to upgrade your vehicles.
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