The Quest for Improved First Responder Safety

Safety has always been a priority in what is otherwise an inherently dangerous occupation. Lighting and visibility have always been crucial to emergency personnel and the ability to do their job. When it comes to equipment to help provide visibility to first responders, technology has been slow to effectively adapt.

From uniforms, vehicle lighting, and portable radios, to flashlights, reflective vests, and inferior portable lighting systems, they all have tradeoffs, making them less than completely effective for the visibility, identification, and lighting of first responders.

Inferior Lighting Systems

There are a few body-worn lighting systems out there, but they lack the features sufficient to improve the safety of first responders.

  • No durability rating
  • Not water resistant
  • Only 1-mile visibility
  • Only unidirectional
  • Require added attachments
  • Rely on disposable batteries
  • Lack multiple function capability
  • Limited adaptability to create lighting at scenes
  • Inferior mounting systems

Reflective vests

The highest rated vest for first responders is designed to only be seen from 1,280 feet,4 a distance that a vehicle traveling 65mph can close in only 13 seconds.

The effectiveness of a vest at this distance is dependent on multiple conditions; the first responder is already out in the open at that point; the vest becomes illuminated by lights at just the right angle and brightness; and the driver immediately sees the vest once it’s illuminated and can react quickly enough.

Portable Radios

A radio will not help pinpoint an officer in a crowded venue unless the officer can radio his exact location. Of course, that could change by the time assistance arrives. And in an emergency, it may even be difficult for a first responder to get time on the radio. Or worse yet, an officer may be down due to a medical condition, accident, or violent act.

The Uniform

The public identifies with a first responder’s uniform as a symbol of trust, dedication, and service. However, it does little for visibility on the roadway or in a crowded venue. It may also be difficult to identify those not in standard uniforms such as bike officers or mounted patrol.

Vehicle lighting

Emergency vehicle lighting is critical to the mission. However, most of the active work that police and firefighters do is outside of their vehicles


Though lighting and battery capabilities have improved since it was invented, the functionality of the flashlight has remained relatively unchanged. The standard first responder flashlight still limits users to a single, unidirectional, white beam. It does not have the ability to identify emergency personnel through varying colors, and rarely is there a strobe capability.