Why Modern Firefighters Need Hands-Free Lighting?
Hands-Free Lighting for Optimal Safety and Performance
Firefighting is one of the jobs in which holding a light in your hand interferes with your work. When firefighters are on the scene, they need their hands free to pull hoses, swing axes, climb ladders, operate extraction equipment, and do many other time-critical tasks.
As most firefighters know, structure fires and vehicle-related accidents happen much more often during the evening hours, where lighting becomes an essential tool. Firefighters need a pair of lights for maximum flexibility: an angle light on their jacket and another on their helmet. These lights need to be purpose-built specifically for firefighters to maximize efficiency, utility, and safety.
A critical piece of this pair would be an angle light (XPR-5568GX) with a tight smoke-cutting beam that illuminates distant objects with a second floodlight that illuminates the ground in front of them. Ideally, both lights should have the ability to turn on independently or run simultaneously in a dual-light mode. This allows the firefighter to see where they are going while avoiding trip hazards and ground-level obstacles. A professional quality angle light should also be able to rotate the head 90° and quickly turn it into a traditional handheld torch if the situation requires it. In this example, the angle light now does the work of three lights with one tool.
The second element of this pair would be a helmet light (XPR-5562GX) mounted on the front of the helmet that has a focused spotlight for seeing at a distance and a mode that allows for a soft floodlight to cover the immediate areas where they are working without the blinding glare of a spotlight bouncing back. Again, both the spotlight and floodlight should have a dual-light mode allowing them to turn on independently or simultaneously as the environment dictates; more functions give more options, more options give more time. Having more time can mean the difference between life and death in a critical situation. Finally, this helmet light should be an ultra-low profile design to allow the clearance of visors and face protectors when cutting tools or chainsaws are required.
A well-equipped firefighter should have additional lighting options, such as secondary helmet lighting and portable lanterns.
Secondary helmet lights (XPP-5418GX-K01) should have an adjustable mount and a tight, focused beam that attaches to the side of the helmet that can be easily positioned to light up a specific area not covered by the angle light or center-mounted helmet light. Professional quality secondary helmets light should also have a dual-light feature to provide extra illumination at the ground level.
The size and battery power of angle and helmet lights limit the amount of light they can provide over large areas or distances, and sometimes a portable lantern (XPR-5584GMX) is needed to properly survey and evaluate a large space or structure. Additional features should include a rapid-release shoulder strap in case the firefighter becomes entangled and must escape quickly. Green “follow me” lights on the rear of the lantern to help the teams rapidly locate each other and a flat base with a sturdy ergonomic handle for crawling along the floor. Most importantly, it must be very bright and have a long runtime for extended calls. In some cases, the addition of a downward-facing floodlight with the ability to run in dual-light mode can also be helpful.
A fully equipped firefighter will also have portable area lights (XPR-5592GCX) at their disposal. These can be set up to illuminate important areas such as ingress and egress routes and regions that need extra attention, such as large holes or overhead obstacles like power lines and other dangerous obstructions. Professional-grade lighting will be cordless and have features such as powerful rare-earth magnetic bases to attach firmly to any ferrous metal, airtight housings, and stands that allow them to be elevated for maximum visibility.
Another overlooked aspect of firefighter lighting is safety ratings. Everyone always assumes the fire department only shows up when something is on fire, but in some cases, they are called out to investigate a potential fire hazard before it ignites. In these instances, it is essential to have intrinsically safe lighting to prevent a spark that could cause a fire or explosion.
A professional firefighter needs lighting that has modern features and also has the appropriate safety rating for the environment it may or may not be used in. Exploring a potential gas leak or other hazardous environments with an un-rated flashlight can lead to disastrous results.
The final thought to consider is the product manufacturers. For many years, only a handful of companies created products for the firefighting market, and their dominance created a lack of innovation, leading to a “this is what we’ve always used” mindset with many agencies. As other established lighting companies began to focus on the firefighting industry to improve the safety and options available to firefighters, groundbreaking technologies like dual-light and rotating heads started to appear.