How to choose the right light bar for your fire truck

Posted by Extreme Tactical Dynamics on Apr 16th 2020

The emergency services are a crucial part of our society. They keep the public safe, as well as reassured that if something goes wrong, the help is always available to them. As a firefighter you’ll spend most of your time updating your equipment and preparing for the next emergency, and will be well aware that your truck could be the difference between life and death. Being properly prepared and having the right equipment is critical, so that you’re seen and heard on the roads and able to get to the emergency in the best time possible. As well as their roaring sirens alerting road users to let you through, your emergency vehicle lights are another important element on your truck, and finding the right firefighter lights are vital. There are many different types on the market, including the firefighter light bar, so be sure that you’re in the know so you can choose the right LED light bar for your fire truck. 

What are light bars?

Light bars are found on emergency vehicles such as police, ambulance and firefighting vehicles. They tend to be the main lights you see since they’re mounted in a visible location, and since they’re so bright they do a great job in alerting road users so they can then move out of the way. These light bars vary from visor strobe lights, to small light bars, or

Colours, sizes and variations

Emergency vehicles lights tend to use both blue and/ or red and there are good reasons for this. Red is more easily seen in daylight, and blue at night meaning regardless of the time, your truck will be spotted when the lights are on. You can also find specialised light bars available which include dual-color light bars, traffic advisor light bars, and tow truck light bars. Traffic advisor light bars are particularly good for including as firefighter vehicles emergency lights, as they are able to direct the traffic flow at the scene of an accident. Firefighter light bars are available in a variety of lengths, ranging from 37 to 63 inches; however smaller and ‘mini’ light bars can be found too. It all depends on the size of your truck, so take some time to work out the best size and positioning based on the vehicle you want to kit out. 

T.I.R. vs Linear

Before you invest in a firefighter light bar based on reviews or the way that it looks, consider the purpose and exactly what you will be using it for. This helps you to narrow down your choices and you will end up with a product that much better suits its use. There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s all down to the specifics that you need. The types of warning lights and conditions will all affect the light you should choose. Two main varieties are:

TIR/ total internal reflector

This is made up of a light emitting diode (LED), which is centered at the end of a conical reflector. The reflector captures a significant amount of the scattered light and focuses it forward, so in order to spread this beam of light out over a wider area, manufacturers include optics which are seen as vertical ridges along the outside of the lens. This gives the light its characteristic appearance where the signal is still visible, but the effectiveness of the warning light is significantly diminished. This means that you end up with a very powerful signal spread, but out in a narrow band facing the front of the light. If you’re wanting high performance off angle, then emergency light bars with linear style optics should be considered.


A warning light with linear optics is able to produce a wide angle warning signal which can easily be seen from almost any point where the face of the light is visible. The reason for this is all of the LEDs in the lighthead are surrounded with an optical reflector that captures the scattered light. There is usually a collimator (a device that narrows a beam of particles or waves) placed over the LEDs to align the light emitted from eachs source. Some linear optics can achieve more than 180 degrees of spread which makes them very effective in off angle applications. However, it does mean that the lighthead is spreading its energy over a wider area than that of the TIR so the strength of the emergency led light bar appearance will be somewhat lower than a TIR lighthead- even with an equal number of the exact same LEDs.

Finding the right light bars for you

As you can see, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option when it comes to buying a firefighter light bar. Speaking to the professionals who can advise you of what you need based on your specific vehicle and needs means you will end up with the best LED light bar, fire truck siren, or warning light bar for you. 

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