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How to buy emergency lighting

By Mike Shimwell
S A Equipment
Republished with permission of International Fire Fighter Magazine

It is essential that public safety responders have access to a wide variety of lighting equipment, so they can cope with a multitude of emergency scenarios. Any equipment selected should allow them to work quickly, effectively and safely.

On arrival at an emergency scene any equipment that enables a rapid assessment of the damage to be made can be invaluable to the overall speed and success of a mission. Portable scene lighting systems, which can illuminate surrounding structures or large ground level areas, are ideal for this use.

To ensure the most reliable and effective product is selected, there are a number of features to consider including the unit’s construction, weight, ease of erection, lamp type, illumination capacity and power source.

Construction types and features
Portable scene lighting systems constructed from aluminum are ideal as they are tough, yet also lightweight enough to be carried by hand to where they are needed. For ease of erection, features such as spikes or wide-angle feet allow units to be easily pitched into the ground, while the use of pneumatic masts enable the height of units to be raised or lowered swiftly with a simple pump action.

Lamp types
There are a number of lamp types to consider for those selecting portable lighting equipment. Halogen lamps in particular offer exceptionally bright levels of light, but can be fragile, may cause a drain on any accompanying power generator unit and can be temporarily blinding if looked at directly.

Twin compact fluorescent lamps offer extremely powerful levels of illumination and avoid glare, as they emit a diffused light. For even greater illumination performance, lighting units which are linkable in a series are perfect as they combine to create an even greater spread of light.

Power sources
Portable lighting systems that can be powered from a number of different sources provide greater flexibility during an emergency. There are now a number of battery powered scene lighting systems available, which can also be powered off a small generator and even a vehicle dashboard.

Once an assessment of the emergency scene has been made, other lighting equipment such as handlamps become critical to the rescue mission itself. Handlamps are an essential item when entering buildings or other confined spaces with unfamiliar layouts and impaired visibility, as they allow firefighters to see more clearly in dark smoke filled environments.

To ensure the most reliable and effective product is selected there are a number of key areas to look at including the unit’s construction, lamp and beam performance, built-in safety features, charging capacity and battery performance.

The material that a handlamp is made from is crucial particularly when you consider the amount of equipment firefighters have to carry and the harsh conditions they have to operate within.

Consider handlamps made from thermoplastic materials, as they are both robust and lightweight and able to cope with extreme temperatures. A lamp’s intensity and beam performance is also essential.

There is now a vast range of lamp options available including halogen, krypton and xenon, which can produce the powerful sharp narrow beams of light necessary to cut through thick hanging smoke or dust, an essential requirement when working within
the scattered remains of collapsed buildings.

Power management features
Another important attribute to consider when selecting lighting equipment are intrinsic safety and power management features. Many battery-powered hand lamps now have warning indicators built into them that can inform a user if the power is getting low.

Dual power switches are often manufactured into the product as well, making it possible to switch onto a lower power option if required. This provides valuable extra usage time, which can make a vital difference in extended rescue operations.

Battery performance
Battery performance plays an important role in the operational effectiveness of hand lamps and torches. While some services prefer to utilize dry cell batteries, others take advantage of the latest rechargeable systems. Ongoing advances in rechargeable battery technology now offer lighter batteries that offer increased power, longer life between charges and quicker recharging times than ever before.

Maintenance needs
Regular maintenance is just as important as the many other features built into lighting products to improve their overall effectiveness and helps to sustain performance levels in testing conditions. It is the final important consideration to think about before purchasing any lighting equipment.

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