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Green Lights for Safety

Bill Crittenden
December 26, 2012


It's pretty easy to tell from a quick look around the Library, or my wardrobe, that green is my favorite color.  This is one of those things that just works out so well that it just looks like I'm saying, "everybody use MY favorite color!" but really, I didn't set the ball rolling on this one, I'm just trying to push it along a little further.

So the Library isn't what keeps a roof over my head (if anyone would like to change that, we have sponsorship opportunities available!).  I work in the security business.  Over the years I've worked a bunch of different assignments in a variety of place and seen some of the technology that is available for security as well as met and talked to a huge variety of people both in and out of the security business and heard their opinions on the occupation, its purpose, its effectiveness, and what can be done better.

I've also been so frustrated with management at times that I thought, when I was younger and didn't have a family to care for or The Crittenden Automotive Library occupying my night hours, of going it alone and starting my own security company.

I also thoroughly despised the "cop wannabe" look of most security uniforms, equipment, and companies.  Security is NOT the police.  But that's a separate discussion.  I will say that I still have an old Security Officer badge with the scales of justice on it that was issued to me, and I KNOW security is not an agent of the legal system, and I think that these symbols give the wrong impression of security's powers and authority to those outside and inside the business.  This was also a long time ago, before the "Tea Party" took the Gadsden Flag as one of its symbols and thoroughly embarrassed the United States around the world and turned the tricorner hat into a symbol of political stupidity, but that is also a separate discussion...  Anyway, I had intended to use the Gadsden Flag (the yellow flag with the coiled snake and the words "Don't Tread on Me") incorporated into a security company logo.  The rattlesnake makes a very good symbol for security, as it warns those approaching it (deterrent effect of uniformed security), only fights to defend itself (security should only fight for self-defense), and it has a membrane that covers its eye so it never needs to actually blink, an outstanding symbol of the vigilance of security always watching for danger (I began this article on Christmas, and I did put in 12 hours on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Of course, the green color of the snake lent itself well to marketing.  I would have loved to have gotten a car named for a snake, preferably a dark green Dodge Viper, dressed in green warning lights and company logos, and take it to cruise nights and car shows and call it an advertising campaign.  I found plenty of lighting equipment in the Galls catalog as well as automotive aftermarket catalogs, and it was a fun way to kill time talking with my buddies on late weekend shifts.

In looking into this little dream project, I did find out that, at least in many states at the time, you could use just about any color of light on your car to dress it up with the exception of red on anywhere but the rear and blue because of its connection to emergency vehicles.  Amber, of course, is the most popular color for getting people's attention and is used in all sorts of warning lights, but green and purple were available as well.  That's about all there is for choice, as most other colors just end up looking like a different color that already has a meaning (orange looks like amber, brown looks like a dim bulb, and pink looks like red through a faded lens).

Fast forward ahead to another problem security was having as an industry a few years later (I haven't kept up with issues affecting the business as a whole lately, but a recent assignment reminded me of this issue and I can see in my own observations that things haven't changed much since the original discussion).  Security officers wanted to be able to use blue lights, only on the private propery they were assigned to work, to distinguish their vehicles from the wide variety of other vehicles using amber flashing lights.

Yes, amber is definitely the most used color out there.  Turn signals, blinking yellow lights at intersctions, hazard lights, school buses, tow trucks, construction barricades, construction vehicles, message boards, it's all over the place in everyday use.  My current assignment has parking lot lights that are of a warm white variety, and not very bright, so the whole property is lit in amber light.  I imagine this can get even worse when there are other specialized vehicles with amber warning lights on the property of certain types of businesses.

Amber's basic function is to get a driver's attention, but because of how widespread its use is there isn't much meaning beyond that, and its overuse dulls that effect.  Green has few purposes in lighting on the roadway: in green lights at intersections and green road signs, some of which are backlit now, and neither of those uses involve blinking, flashing, or rotating.  A blinking green strobe, or brightly flashing green LED bars will get attention and a driver will know EXACTLY what those lights mean from a distance!

Security already usually uses the amber color on its vehicles where I live.  There is, however, a functional difference between a tow truck and a security vehicle to an observer on private property, and there should be a visual difference as well so that people can spot security from a distance when they need help.  People either are avoiding security, in which case a visual deterrence is more effective if it doesn't look like every other warning light in the parking lot, or they need assistance, in which case security is easier to spot if their lights don't look like every other warning light in the parking lot.  To a person needing assistance, green is a great way to tell that help is in the area but keeps that key visual difference between public police and private security.  Green, as opposed to purple, already has a safety and emergency connotation (green crosses denoting first aid kits) so it shouldn't require much of a public awareness campaign for people to get the idea that green means help is near.

Oh, and about all this sticking out like a sore thumb: if you're trying to blend in and not be noticed, you're not going to drive a vehicle marked "Security" with amber flashing lights on it to begin with!

Encouraging an industry standard use of green lighting for security vehicles would also ensure that people know where the security is if they need assistance wherever they go.  It would encourage professionalism and cameraderie by giving security a separate, special symbol of their profession without the problems that come with adopting police symbols without the training, authority, and oaths required of actual police work.

Thanks to newly available deep green LEDs, instead of the bright lime green LEDs, lighting up in a non-annoying shade of green is easier than ever.  My personal car's license plate lights are done in green glass incendescent bulbs ($3 for the pair at AutoZone) while my interior lights are deep green LEDs from SuperBrightLEDs.com, which not counting shipping were about $4 and &7 per bulb, depending on the type.



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