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Thursday
Jan012015

Insulated Illumination 2

With the recent science papers coming out regarding the harmful effects of LED light on the human eye, I feel the benefits of these valuable response tools should be revisited. As always, strong lighting should not be directed into anyones direct eyesight.

Being in need of a flashlight for emergency purposes is paramount in my profession. As a result, over the years it is easy to develop a curiosity and want to improve on the best of the best to maximize your illumination needs. Many sizes, ranges, and types are now available for a variety of purposes. Large, small, medium, and even hands-free head-lamps are now common. One of the most effective units around is the LED (Light Emitting Diode) models. These are truly a revolution as no bulb is required for illumination.

The best combination for your emergency preparedness “kit” at home is the combination of the LED light of choice matched with lithium batteries. This option gives the user long lighting time and maximum storage for a single lighting package. Be sure to take note of a couple of operational facts.

1] Always store the batteries separate from the hand-light. This insures no gas buildup over time inside the lights battery compartment thus eliminating battery breakdown and the subsequent corrosion issues inside the LED battery chamber of the hand-light.

2] Realize that the effective illumination draws from the LED batteries are quite different than incandescent bulbs. This means that the LED will draw complete power from the battery before it extinguishes. Whereas the incandescent bulb draw reduced power as the batteries empty thus, “fade” over battery usage time, slowly diming the hand-light (lowering brightness) before the flashlight ultimately fails.

This second point does change the operational “clues” for the user. When your LED “blinks” the unit is NOT loose, do not shake it. This clue tells the user that the battery is reaching the end of service. If you are in the middle of an operation, you may be able to get light by shutting off the hand-light momentarily and then turning it back on. This sometimes allows the drained battery to build its remaining reserve and give you back a limited consistent light source. Of course, this practice will ultimately exhaust itself as the correct resolution is to change over to fresh batteries as soon as possible.

The key component for the differences between “bulbs” and “diodes” is “how” the device irradiates light. When a “bulb” shines its light on your object of desire, you are seeing in your eye the light that is “reflected” from the object. This explains in part, the ancillary light lost around the outside area of the object (try this in a darkened room with a regular bulb flashlight). When a “diode” shines its light on your object of desire, your eye sees the light directed onto the surface of the object. This difference is slight, but huge in how you perceive the object you wish to view. With focused diodes in place of bulbs, you may actually “see” greater detail, smaller parts, even precision elements that may very well be exactly what you are searching for. This difference warrants your comparison between these two device types, before you commit to a final purchase. Discovering various environmental inadequacies in the field is much too late for the responder. If you typically spend a large cost on a hand-light, your final choice and decision becomes much like the sign at the beginning of the country road, “pick your rut carefully, you will be in it for a long time.”

The LED uses a glowing diode that almost never burns out to emit light. These improvements away from the common “bulb” to the “diode” are exciting to those of us that rely frequently on portable hand-lights. See my favorite brand, www.pelican.com for a more in depth discussion on the benefits of the diode over the bulb. The benefits for hazardous materials responders far outweigh the disadvantages some may see. Some key elements worth consideration on your hazardous materials incident site are;

1] Water proof and rated for use in hazardous/flammable environments.

2] Long battery life for extended operations to mitigate a spill/release.

3] Attachment to your chemical ensemble; interior or exterior?

4] If you need hands-free operation, will this integrate with your CPC?

5] Size; LED’s no longer need to be multiple to deliver ample light on your subject matter. New improvements have eliminated multiple diodes through the ability of the “adjustable focus” single large diode. However, multiple diodes cannot fail at the same time. A single diode may.

6] Fit, this is extremely important to me, as I work better with a hand-light that actually “fits my hand”. Many tools are like this, some you work better with because of this “fit.” A quality match should be comfortable to hold for long periods.

There are many more issues to consider with portable lights, so much so, that I have three or four different hand-lights in my “magic-bag-of-tricks” for use at hazardous materials incidents. Sometimes you cannot find “one” flashlight that will meet all your needs, but two or three may. You may find the same situation in your work. As technology in this field continues, we will remain concerned customers whenever these new innovations increase our “workability.”  Illumination by choice increases safety, decreases work, and as always enhances your “workability”.

                        Haz Mat Mike

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