Chemical-based road flares are going by the wayside, yielding to LED lighting technology and the many options available with the PowerFlare line of safety beacons.
Emergency responders have good reason to move away from potassium perchlorate and other substances used in conventional pyrotechnic safety flares – not the least of which is the PowerFlare will not set anything on fire. After recently running into Tricia Callahan, PowerFlare’s VP of sales, at the National Homeland Security Conference, I was a more than curious about her product. She sent me a sample beacon so I could decide for myself whether I ever wanted to light another road flare again. Full disclosure: Tricia didn’t have much work to do – when I was a rookie cop I ruined a new pair of uniform pants after some hot flare slag went flying and burned holes in the fabric.
PowerFlares come with many options – including a rechargeable version. The standard power option is the single 3V CR123A lithium battery, making for a good shelf life. Agencies and individuals can choose between many exterior “shell” colors as well as many lighting colors. All models are equipped with a full range of lighting patterns, from rapid strobes, to steady-on, and in several levels of brightness. The lights are LED, making them efficient, but I was worried about brightness and the distance from which they would be visible. That didn’t appear to be an issue after a nighttime test, however, with the doughnut-sized lighting puck providing brilliant light – at least with the red LED version I was provided.
The lights appear well made, and equally tough. They’re not light, so they will stay in place, and the weight gives them a rugged feel. Mine came with an optional magnet, which allows for so many more mounting options that it should be universal. For example, they can quickly adhere to a vehicle or temporary command post. I’m not sure I could even see myself ordering a non-magnetic version. I was so impressed by it that my evaluation of the PowerFlare began with me sticking it to any metal object I could find around the office.
Storage and deployment packaging for the PowerFlare is not short of options either. From hard cases and bags, to the “bucket of beacons” with 24 or 36 units inside, there are almost too many options to choose from. They’ve also thought of usability options too, with a traffic cone adapter that elevates the beacon above the roadway (though in my evaluation I seemed to prefer the way the light shines on the roadway surface when its on the ground).
Overall, the PowerFlare is a huge improvement over road flares for more reasons than I can count. They are safe, waterproof, easy to carry, much easier to deploy, and the available options make them a no-brainer for emergency managers and first responders. The only downside is that they could grow legs and walk away if left unattended in certain areas, but that’s true of any equipment of value or interest that is used in the field.
Let me know if you use PowerFlares or if you plan to – I’d love to hear what other people think about them.