The current generation of light towers
The current generation of light towers are quick to set up, easy to store and provide better light than has ever been available.
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Officers at the local police station are working the overnight shift. Everyone is busy with paperwork and other tasks when, suddenly, an urgent call comes in. There’s been an accident, and the team must respond immediately. Within minutes of arrival, the entire site is illuminated, and the officers are able to investigate and gather evidence quickly and accurately in full light.
Had the team not been prepared with proper lighting, this scenario could have played out much differently. Sufficient lighting on scene improves safety and accuracy and enhances attention to detail. Although many officers typically rely on a quartz light, a vehicle’s spotlight or simply a flashlight, these sources are no match for the capabilities and light output provided by light towers.
To fully understand the importance of having a light tower, one must first realize all the benefits it can provide—not only for law officers, but for victims and bystanders, as well. Today’s light towers offer more than just a source of illumination; towers are an important member of the law enforcement team: They quickly make sites safer and more productive by offering more light and a better quality of light than any other source.
Benefits of Light
The primary reason for having a light tower is safety. Whether it’s an accident scene, a crime scene that needs to be processed or a DUI checkpoint, darkness impairs vision and endangers everyone involved in the event. Proper lighting reduces risks for all involved.
In addition to keeping safe, law enforcement personnel must be productive and accurate. Evidence on crime scenes must be collected quickly and in a proper manner to ensure the integrity of each piece. Accident reconstructions must be exact, down to the smallest details. Nothing is more crucial in search-and-rescue missions than timing and precise location. A good light tower ensures that all of this is possible.
Quality & Quantity
In recent years, light towers have undergone many positive changes. The quality and output of light, as well as the tower design itself, have all greatly improved to deliver safer and more efficient sites than ever before.
The first step in producing better quality light began with developments in the fixtures. More than a decade ago, a new type of lamp fixture was introduced as an alternative to the standard coaxial fixtures. Not only were the previous coaxial fixtures large and vulnerable to damage, their design didn’t allow for very efficient output.
This new parallel lamp design was more compact and less prone to damage than its coaxial predecessor. But more than that, parallel lamp fixtures provide a more consistent and higher output of light, which increases visibility and site safety. With the advent of the parallel fixtures, lamp breakage greatly decreased and light coverage soared.
But the industry didn’t stop evolving. A new lighting system has recently been developed that produces brighter, whiter light. This cutting-edge technology utilizes 1,250-watt lamps that produce 150,000 lumens per lamp. This is a 36% increase from standard 1,000-watt lamps that produce 110,000-lumens of output. Not only does this improve the amount of light, it also produces a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 70, compared with 65 CRI with a typical metal halide light.
CRI is measured by a light source’s ability to reproduce the colors of objects as they appear in natural sunlight. Lights producing a higher CRI allow objects to be seen more clearly, which minimizes the risk of accidents and visual mistakes. This is particularly valuable in law enforcement applications because the work is often detailed with a small margin for error.
Storage & Set Up
Although advancements in light quality are important, improvements to tower design shouldn’t be overlooked. Towers are more compact, lightweight and efficient than ever, making them easy to transport, store and position. New telescoping masts are instrumental to the improved design.
In traditional light towers, when the light mast is retracted, it’s folded down across the tower, so it ends up lying horizontally with the fixtures hanging over the back of the unit. This puts the fixtures at a greater risk for damage, requires more space around the tower when being stored or towed and can be a safety hazard to traffic when in transport.
The retracted position of the mast on traditional towers also presents a bit of a problem when positioning the lights. Because the mast lies horizontally, the operator can’t accurately determine how the fixtures will be aligned until they are raised in the vertical position. It requires trial and error to get light exactly where it is needed.
But new telescoping designs address these problems with a mast that vertically raises and lowers in and out of its own housing. The operator can see exactly where the fixtures will be pointing before the tower is raised, allowing faster, more accurate fixture placement. And when the mast is lowered, the fixtures stay within the footprint of the tower. Because the fixtures aren’t hanging over the unit, the chance for damage is reduced. This also eliminates the need for extra space around the tower when it’s being towed or shipped. The smaller, more compact designs make the towers easier to transport and help reduce the amount of congestion on the site.
To further minimize tower set up time, some telescoping designs now feature a hydraulic winch. This allows the tower to be completely raised or lowered in as little as 30 seconds, ensuring illumination is achieved as quickly as possible. This can be a critical factor in an emergency situation where every second counts.
A day in the life of a law enforcement officer can be calm one minute and hectic the next—and nights are often the least predictable. With so much resting on an officer’s shoulders, the added stress of worrying about scene lighting is one concern that can be eliminated simply by having the proper piece of equipment.
A light tower can be a tremendous asset to a law enforcement team and provide an efficient way to illuminate any area. With all the upgrades and added features that come along with a modern light tower, its value for nighttime law enforcement applications is unmatched. From the enhanced quality of light output to the new, compact designs, today’s light towers provide much more than just a source of light. And just like any officer, these light towers will always be ready when duty calls—especially when that call comes in the middle of the night.
Following are just a few of many light tower manufacturers. Note that options, capabilities and configurations can vary greatly.