IFSJ Exclusive: Purpose driven innovation in emergency lighting with Nightstick

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Derek Box, Marketing Manager Industrial at Nightstick, looks at emergency lighting in firefighting

Regardless of geographic location, basic firefighting principles are shared in the name of safety; locate the source of the fire and extinguish it. As a company grows to serve a global market, you learn that these fundamental principles are applied differently. This creates both challenges, but also opportunities for innovation.

Developing and customising lighting solutions for use worldwide requires a global mindset, strategic planning, extensive market research, and professional development. Portable LED lighting certified for use in Mexico might not be acceptable in Poland, or a disposable battery type favoured by firefighters in the City of New York may not be desirable for use in Paris, France.

To be competitive in a global market, you must hire experienced team members from around the world to understand the granular level region[1]specific knowledge and work that into your product development process. Designing only the best products coupled with the desire to expand globally to serve the fire service applications where they are at requires a massive expenditure of capital as well as research, testing, and country specific certification that pushes the limit on what needs to be done regardless of borders.

Primed for global demand

In 2007, that is precisely what Nightstick set into motion. With a strong presence already established in the US firefighting industry with cutting-edge products like the INTRANT®, DICATA®, and INTEGRITAS® series of angle lights, helmet lights, and lanterns respectively, Nightstick sought out to aggressively expand their tried-and[1]true brand of globally certified products.

The company expanded by adding local staff in Central and South America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia to create firefighting LED lighting products where the need was prime for innovation. Its solid foundation of firefighting light development in the United States served as a springboard for their engineers to develop products for this wider audience focused on one goal – Life Depends on Light no matter where you call home.

There are several key differences between North American firefighting equipment and vehicles compared to most other markets, and these differences must be considered when designing as a global manufacturer of portable firefighting lights. A great example of this is one of the primary pieces of firefighting equipment, the fire apparatus. Most firefighting vehicles in the United States are purpose-built from the ground up specifically to fight fires, whereas other countries have a history of modifying existing heavy trucks to serve as their primary firefighting vehicles. This means space is at a premium for non-US fire engines, and compact designs with multiple functions and the highest safety levels are required in these underserved markets.

Dual-light innovation

Originating out of the industrial safety lighting market in the United States and already growing in popularity around the world, Nightstick was already known for pushing the need for innovation in a stagnant market of product complacency when it comes to lighting. The most popular innovation was the introduction of Dual-Light by Nightstick out of Wylie, Texas, USA.

Dual-Light when first introduced by Nightstick as a means to keep those working in Hazardous Environments safe. Added to Intrinsically Safe Certified torches originally, and battle tested for the most extreme environments proved the concept that when it comes to life saving PPE lighting, the fire market was being ignored due to a lack of integration. So what is Dual-Light? What need does it answer for the global fire industry?

At its core, Dual-Light is combining a traditional spotlight for distance illumination with an unfocused floodlight for proximity illumination into one product. Until this point in time, two separate lighting products had to be used, but with Nightstick Dual-Light Technology, those two lights were merged into one useable product. When used in tandem, a smoke-cutting beam intended to shred the dark and a floodlight to see where your walking was now a reality. Don’t be confused. Dual-Light is not merely more light in one specific direction. Dual-Light is purpose placed light where you need it most.

With safety taking the lead, Dual[1]Light is all about seeing more when life depends on light. The Dual-Light phenomenon had already taken the US fire market and safety industry by storm. It was time that the rest of the world experienced how innovations can solve long-standing challenges and turn them into potentially life-saving PPE that you wouldn’t think twice about using in your department regardless of where you live.

Innovation is top priority

The research was clear. When a traditional torch (often called a flashlight in the US market) is activated, the sudden increase in available light causes the pupil to contract as it adjusts to the new level. This sudden constriction of the pupil reduces a user’s peripheral vision and decreases their situational awareness of objects around them, especially if they are wearing a helmet with a visor and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).

After a short period, the pupils will expand somewhat as the eye adjusts to the new light levels, but as they continue looking in the direction of the beam, the pupils will remain constricted. This reduced vision magnifies the odds of a slip or trip occurring in an active firefighting environment with jagged metal, holes, hoses, and other trip hazards in the area. To combat this, Nightstick added an auxiliary area flood light for two reasons.

First, it allows firefighters to regain the lost peripheral vision caused by pupil constriction, allowing them to see the immediate area below and to their sides, significantly reducing the chances of a slip or trip. Secondly, it enables them to switch off the focused spotlight light when not needed while having the ability to keep the non-glare floodlight without the bright hot spot. Anyone who has had to work with a high-lumen focused beam torch light and have the light bouncing back and blinding them knows how uncomfortable that can be.

As Nightstick Daul-Light torches quickly became the industry standard for most professional industrial users, the need to adapt Dual-Light technology to improve different firefighting light products just made sense. One of the first was the classic angle light used by every firefighter on their bunker gear jacket. The Nightstick XPR-5568GX and RX INTRANT® state-of-the-art angle light produces a powerful smoke-cutting beam via a large parabolic custom-tuned reflector without the need to stop and add smoke cutter plugs.

The addition of a downward-facing auxiliary light provides a clear view of the ground and surrounding area and can be used independently or combined with the spotlight for total coverage. Nightsticks engineers knew they could do more, and with another industry first, the entire torch head was designed to be rotated 90 degrees, quickly turning a traditional fixed beam angle light into a Dual-Light torch.

This combines three tools, a torch, floodlight, and angle light, into one compact package, freeing up space and reducing weight while lowering the number of items you need to carry when disembarking the fire engine reducing time in that first golden hour.

Expansion of purpose driven innovation

The safety advantages of Dual-Light were added to a host of other products, such as the XPP-5462GX and RX Dicata® helmet lights. A low-profile headlamp with a tight, focused primary beam for illuminating medium to distant objects and an area floodlight for viewing the ground below and surrounding areas. A green “follow me” light was added to the rear for even more visibility in smoky environments. Studies were done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and found that green light is the most visible colour to the human eye. In fact, green is the colour the human eye has evolved into seeing the best and is up to four times as visible as other colours.

Another tool mired in outdated technology was the lantern. Nightstick knew modern LED technology and combined with industry-specific engineering goals, could produce the best lanterns available on the market. This was the impetus for creating the XPR-5584GMX and RMX INTEGRITAS® series. Utilising a unique four LED head to culminate an incredibly bright beam, and building on the popularity of the rotating head design of Nightstick’s popular angle light, this series has a 180-degree rotating head.

This allows the lantern to instantly convert into a powerful area light or be positioned to illuminate a specific area and stay there courtesy of the embedded rare-earth magnets on the tail.

For situations that demand the most flexibility and coverage, Nightstick created the XPR-5586GX lantern. This lantern incorporates the Dual-Light feature and, when combined with other Dual-Light products, such as the INTRANT angle light and DICATA helmet light, forms an unprecedented level of situational awareness previously unavailable to any firefighter. This lantern also features a rotating head design, quick-release strap, follow-me lights, and a strobe feature, making it part of a complete firefighters lighting solution.

In addition to limited space in non-US vehicles, there are other critical differences, like the electrical system. A US-spec 12-volt vehicle-mounted light charger will be destroyed in a 36-volt European apparatus. This requires electrical engineers to think globally, understand these differences, and create products that can adapt to multiple environments and specifications.

Market driven synergies

When it comes to personal protective equipment for firefighters, the significant difference between the US and other parts of the world is helmet styles. Steeped in tradition, the US firefighting helmets have a very flat, wide brim that extends over the back of the collar with a decorative crest up front, whereas their counterparts in other countries use a more modern design that fully encloses the entire head with a retractable full face shield.

This creates challenges when designing auxiliary lighting for both styles of helmets. In addition to model-specific mounts for popular helmets like the XF1 or XR2, Nightstick created a series of general-purpose mounting kits that accommodate almost any type of firefighting helmet.

As you move into the hazardous environment firefighting industry with formally certified products, the complexity and expense increases exponentially. In addition to the traditionally recognised certification standards for explosive atmospheres like UL-913 and IEC 60079, you must design or modify products to meet the many country-specific certifications, such as INMETRO for Brazil and KOSHA for South Korea.

Firefighting light applications differ in each region, and the methods in which they are bought and sold also vary widely. 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 large and small agencies.

The final thought to consider when purchasing firefighting equipment is the product’s manufacturer. A single-source manufacturer ensures consistent quality and safety across an entire product line when purchasing professional lighting products rather than mixing and matching products from several companies.

This is especially important when buying hazardous environment safety lighting. Nightstick, the original creator of the Dual-Light torch and a global manufacturer of over 50+ intrinsically safe professional, portable LED lighting products sold in 70+ countries, exceeds industry standards in performance, quality, value, and user safety. From penlights to floodlights, above ground or below ground, Nightstick has you covered. Focus on completing your job confidently, knowing your equipment was designed and rated for the highest safety levels.

This article was originally published in the January edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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