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What Volunteer Firefighters Need to Know Before Buying LED Emergency Lights

Volunteer Firefighter

What Volunteer Firefighters Need to Know Before Buying LED Emergency Lights

Speed is critical in an emergency. In the case of a fire, just a few additional minutes can result in significantly more damage as the fire quickly spreads. Therefore, it is important to be equipped to respond to a call from the volunteer fire department quickly. A vital component of being able to get to a burning building quickly is having equipment like a siren or flashing lights to signal to other motorists on the road that your vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle so that the other drivers can pull over and let you through.

Since a volunteer firefighter is typically not authorized to drive a fire truck, it is important to purchase another type of warning light. Read on to learn more about what a volunteer firefighter needs to know before buying LED emergency lights for a personal vehicle.

Is It Illegal for Volunteer Firefighters to Use Emergency Lights?

There are many rules and restrictions when it comes to which types of lights a volunteer firefighter can use for a private vehicle, and many of them vary by state and city. What is legal in one state may be against the law in another state. Let me explain by offering a few examples.

In some areas of the country, interior LED dash light bars are illegal since they look too similar to police lights. Some cities may prohibit the use of an LED light bar, while others prohibit people from using a strobe light. Other municipalities ban particular colors — for example, the combination of red and blue flashing lights is typically reserved for a police vehicle. Similarly, a red and white flashing light combination is typically allowed only by an ambulance and career firefighter fire truck. An amber light bar might be reserved just for tow truck, wrecker or commercial vehicle use.

A volunteer firefighter is not authorized to use that type of emergency lighting. Instead, a volunteer firefighter may use a blue light or green light, but the exact color and style of emergency lights depend on the municipality. Before purchasing any LED emergency lighting for a personal vehicle, be sure to research local laws on permitted emergency lighting for a volunteer firefighter.

The allowable light is often referred to as a courtesy light and signals to motor vehicle drivers that they should pull over to give the emergency responder the right of way.

Can Firefighters Run Red Lights?

Just because you have emergency lights does not mean you are above the law. While the courtesy light that a volunteer firefighter uses will sometimes provide protection against some traffic regulations like speed limits, the use of those flashing lights does not allow a volunteer firefighter to run stop signs or red lights. You do not want to hear a siren, see police lights behind you, and waste time being pulled over by a police officer while you are trying to respond to a fire. Again, check your local laws to see what is allowed for a volunteer firefighter in your area.

Why Choose LED Emergency Lights Over Other Light Types?

One important consideration when choosing volunteer firefighter vehicle lights is what type of bulbs to use. Read on to learn why LED bulbs are the most practical option. 

Benefits of LED Lighting for Your Emergency Vehicle

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are among the most popular types of light in today’s market. This is because of the many benefits of LED lights.

In short, an LED light bar is superior because LED lighting:

  • Lasts longer
  • Emits light in a specific direction — LED bulbs emit light in a specific direction, which reduces the need for reflectors of diffusers that trap light. Because of this, they are considered much more efficient than other types of lighting where the light has to be reflected in order to light a specific direction. 
  • Is cost-efficient — Though LED lights cost more upfront, they last longer than traditional lighting.

Watchouts of LED Warning Light

While there are many benefits to using an LED light bar for your volunteer fire vehicle, there are a few drawbacks as well.

  • While many other types of light bulbs emit heat that will melt snow and ice, LED lights emit very little heat. If you get a call from the fire station during the winter, be sure to clear off your exterior warning light so it is visible to other motorists.
  • LED lights are very bright — so bright, in fact, that if not installed properly, they may be dangerous to other drivers. Always make sure your LED light bar is angled properly to avoid causing other road hazards while responding to a fire.
  • LED bulbs are initially costly. However, since LED lights are usually more energy-efficient and super durable compared to other options, using an LED light will save you money in the long run.

Types of Emergency Vehicle Lights

Ready to purchase some emergency lights for your personal vehicle? Now you just have to decide which types of lights to choose. Remember, each municipality has different laws regarding which lights a volunteer firefighter can use, so be sure to check your local laws before purchasing. Now, read on to learn about the different types of lights.

Grille Lights

Light bars can be mounted to the front grille of trucks. A grille light bar needs to use a mount that is affixed to the car, so consider if you are willing to add a permanent mount before purchasing a grill light.

Dash Lights

A mini light bar or full light bar can be installed on the front dash of an emergency vehicle. These are a good option for those who do not want to make permanent changes to the vehicle, as they can be put up and removed easily.

Make sure to check with local authorities before installing a dash light, as some areas ban them because of their resemblance to police lights.

Beacon Lights

Beacon strobe lights are cylinder-shaped lights that can be fitted to the top of your vehicle when you need to use them. Because they have no permanent mount, this type of LED warning light works well for those who do not want to permanently alter their car.

Running Board Lights

A vehicle’s running board is another potential location for a firefighter light. Not all cars, trucks, and SUVs have running boards, so make sure to check your car for them before purchasing a running board light bar. A running board will be along the side of the car under the doors, providing a stepping surface for climbing into and out of a vehicle.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing Volunteer Firefighter Lights

Consider the following questions to help determine which type of LED emergency light is the right fit for you.

Do You Want a Permanent Mount or Something You Can Stow?

If you prefer not to keep a permanent light mount on your car, consider a portable option like a dash light or a beacon strobe light. If you do not want to bother with repeatedly installing and putting away the light, consider a permanent option such as grill lights or running board lights.

What Type of Mount Should You Choose?

Most fixed lights, such as light bars, will use brackets to permanently mount the lights. For lights that will be stowed between uses, you will need to decide whether to use brackets or another mounting option, such as a magnet mount. Whatever you decide, make sure it is a sturdy option — your light bar needs to be able to withstand all sorts of weather conditions and driving speeds. Otherwise, you risk causing a different type of traffic emergency while trying to respond to a fire.

What Type of Vehicle Do You Drive?

Not all types of lights will work for all vehicles. For instance, not all vehicles have running boards, and not all vehicles will be able to find a grill light that fits.

How Long Will You Be Using Your Current Vehicle?

If you are planning to buy a new vehicle soon, consider a portable emergency light so you do not waste time and effort installing a light you will not have the opportunity to use much. Plus, a portable light will be transferable to a new vehicle since it does not have to be mounted.


When there is a fire, having firefighter responder equipment like a siren or flashing lights can make a significant difference in being able to respond quickly. As you can see, there are several considerations to take into account for a volunteer firefighter looking to buy an LED emergency light. If you have additional questions, our experts can help you choose the right emergency lights for you.

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