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· Registered
523 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For those who may not have seen it yet:

I just wanted to chime in and perhaps get some discussion going on the topic as it's something I've personally been looking into recently.

While in the vast majority of situations, I've gotta fully agree with the theme of the article, that emergency lighting isn't something most folks need, or can even legally have depending on local laws, I do believe there are (as always) exception to every rule =)

A couple examples where I've seen lighting used or where it might be suitable (again, depending on local laws of course...)

The first would be the local EMCOMM group which often does communications for large public events. The local group, MCECG, does comms for numerous events, but just one example that many may have hear of is Pat's Run. It's a large marathon-type event with tens of thousands of runners, all running in honor of Pat Tillman. It's a massive event as far as participant count goes, and involves all of the local police departments, city managers, EMT groups, etc. That said, with complete authorization, there are usually ham vehicles that operate within the closed confines of the event zone for everything from shuttling supplies (water) to moving people such as event staffers, medical personnel, and even the occasional injured runner if necessary. Those vehicles tend to have amber lighting installed and they do put it to good use. (Closed course mind you...)

Another scenario might be those into storm chasing. To say the least, there's a HUGE debate about storm chasers and emergency lighting, so I won't really get into it here, but there are cases where you may need to stop (photos, extremely unsafe driving conditions, etc.) and some slow-flashing ambers can do wonders for safety. Again, however, this isn't a blanket license to play god, speed all over, run the lights while moving, etc. but used judiciously, it can be an asset.

Off roading, another of my favorite hobbies, is another area where it could serve a purpose. I was recently in a night time off roading trip in the AZ desert when we came across a flipped-over pickup truck. Lucky as we were to have cell coverage to get the local sheriffs office to respond, it would've been immensely helpful to be able to 'light up' the area for them to find us among the maze of trails out there. Luckily there were no people at the crash site (they bailed long before we found the truck) so time wasn't super critical, but there have been incidents where life has been on the line in the past, and surely will be in the future again.

I personally fall into all three of the examples above which of course makes this subject pique my interest more than most. It's also perfectly legal in AZ to install amber lights, and even white strobes for that matter, when used within the confines of the law (basically, true emergencies.)

Just one person's opinion on the topic. Please include a healthy dosage of sodium (and common sense!) =)

1,829 Posts

I have done quite a few MCECG events both as a stationary check point and as a rover for events like Tour De Scottsdale. Driving over public roads on the 30 or 70 mile event.

Last October, it was hot, hot hot amd people were dropping like flys. I personally assisted in 4 heat stroke victims, which required me to block a curb side lane of traffic with just flashers on my Audi S5. It was not until the "old guard" came up with light bars on the trucks behind me that i felt safer.

So light bars due help with visibility and improve safety with events on public roads when the local LEO's are blocking intersections for traffic flow.

Besides its Race Control that either sends you to investigate an incident and report back or you happen upon an incident and notify race control so they can direct a SAG vehicle or direct paramedics to your location.

In these cases light bars help a great deal. I will have one for my next event i work when assigned to one of those positions were they help make it a safer event.
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Reactions: endl3ss and KF4LNE

· Banned
790 Posts
I know the article is mainly about vehicle lighting but you and KF4LNE bring up the larger point of hams and emergency response in general. This goes well beyond lights on a car.

I'm sure we've all seen them around town and especially at hamfests and public events: The guy who walks around wearing a uniform-ish looking vest or shirt (with patches, of course), carries a radio at all times, and gives the impression that he's "on duty" or there in some official capacity.

There is one dude in my area that went so far as to buy an old cop car, fit it with a half dozen or so antennas, and added a few "emergency radio service" stickers on the back. I've never met him, know nothing about him, but based solely on the appearance of that car he totally creeps me out. Can you imagine him pulling over to "help" your wife or daughter with a car breakdown? Another guy hangs out on the simplex frequencies and states he is the "emergency assistance and local information operator". It turned out he was actually a high school student with "issues" who had a legitimate ham license.

I'm not sure what us normal, level-headed folks can do about these whackjobs. Most of them are harmless wannabes who are probably known to the real first responders and are more or less ignored as the joke they are.

When I joined a local gun club my mom warned me to be careful because gun clubs "attract a lot of nuts". I told her gun people are actually pretty's the ham radio guys I need to look out for! :D:

· Communications Bunker
961 Posts
While the main theme of my blog post is that a ham license doesn't make you an emergency responder, the OP does make some valid points. Anyone, weather ham or not, who is working any kind of event along a public road should have some way to make themselves more visible. Just being a radio operator isn't a valid reason to have a light bar or any other emergency lighting, especially if it is permanently installed. If you are working an event and your position requires you to be either on the road or along side the road or in any way potentially impeding the normal flow of traffic, then an amber light makes good sense, but that doesn't stem from your radio license, it stems from your immediate duties being performed in or near traffic. This is a temporary need. When you are providing a function such as traffic control or you are a tail or sweep vehicle in a race or other event, then your primary function is not being a radio operator, and your radio operating becomes secondary to the function. In these situations, you're not using amber lighting because you are a ham radio operator, you are using amber lighting because you are performing some kind of duties to provide support, so the radio and the amber lighting become tools to help provide that support.

As for storm chasers, many do not have flashing strobe lights and they do not advocate their use. A spotter certificate doesn't make you a storm chaser, it makes you a weather spotter and one of the things they tell you in spotter training is to do it safely. Getting in your car, turning on a million watts of strobe light and driving into an oncoming tornadic supercell doesn't seem to me to be a safe thing.

Now, as for off-roading, that's not taking place on public streets and generally anything goes. I keep a super-bright strobe in my truck for using off road. When you go off road you're bound to find an upside down truck somewhere, and its probably going to be just around a blind curve. While in the woods, you also have guys on dirt bikes and 4 wheelers who are moving much faster than the average truck. Having a super bright strobe light can easily prevent someone from coming around a curve and running into a recovery operation or something else. I keep a super bright strobe in my truck just for that situation.

Ultimately, what my blog post is saying is that holding an Amateur Radio license is only a license to use and experiment with radio. Nowhere does it authorize the licensee to operate emergency lighting on their vehicle or to respond to emergencies. A ham radio license authorizes you to sit down in front of a radio and press the PTT. Now any communications group you are with may allow the use of emergency lighting as part of your duties with that group, but that's different than having a radio license.

Also, I have a pic of a local in my area who fits the description of the guy walking around wearing the uniform-ish shirt with the patches. He drives a Chevy Impala that looks like an unmarked LEO vehicle.


I think this line in my blog post sums it all up best: While some authorized users are also hams, hams are not authorized to use emergency lighting.

While many volunteers have a legitimate and valid reason to use emergency lighting, it is the work you are doing as a volunteer for a particular organization that authorizes the lighting. Although the radio license may be a requirement to participate in the organization, it doesn't include authorization to install and operate emergency lighting.

An Amateur Radio License Does Not Make You Emergency Personnel

I am getting ready to write a new blog post, so I just wanted to add the link to the one this thread is based on. Also, to the people who do read my blog, thank you for taking the time to read, and comment here in the forum.

· Comm Monkey
811 Posts
Most of the time operating with ARES or in a communications support role I end up on foot for that I keep a flasher on me pointing to the rear just to keep from getting ran over at night or adverse conditions.
If I am in my car and working an event I just use my 4-way flashers. I have no need for a light bar, I have enough metal hanging off my car as is :)

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