What you need to know about Emergency Vehicle Strobe Lights

Posted by Extreme Tactical Dynamics on Oct 19th 2020

Vehicle strobe lights are used in a number of different driving situations, yet they have proven to be especially important when emergency response vehicles are responding to an incident. However, if you have had a look on the Internet for emergency vehicle strobe lights, you may be feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the different options that are available to you. This is why it is critical to understand what vehicle strobe lights are and how they work. This is exactly what you are going to discover in this blog post, so continue reading to find out more. 

What is a strobe light?

Before we delve deeper into the use of strobe lights for emergency vehicles specifically, let’s explain what this type of light is. A strobe light is basically a device that will produce a specific type of light. The word has Greek origins, coming from the word “strobos.” This actually means “act of whirling” when translated to English. 

The best way to understand strobe lights is to compare them to non-strobe lights, which are the basic light bulbs that you will use in your home or office. With these lights, a continual supply of lighting is generated. With strobe lights, this is not the case. Instead, continual flashes of light are produced instead. Another difference is the fact that strobe lights tend to be much, much brighter as well. This is because more energy can be used for every flash of light because the light is not being used continually. 

A typical strobe light on the commercial market will create between 10 and 150 energy joules. This can be seen from great distances and is very powerful.

There are two ways that a strobe light can be used. The first is a flashing light. This is what you are typically going to see on emergency vehicles.

The other option is for the light to be used in continuous mode. This means that the flashes are spaced out in such a manner that the naked eye finds it virtually impossible to tell that the light is flashing. This form of strobe light is not really common on emergency vehicles. 

What do we use strobe lights on vehicles for?

Before we start to discuss the different types of emergency vehicle strobe lights that are on the market today, it is first imperative to understand what these lights are used for. Emergency vehicle strobe lights are used in emergency scenarios or any other situations whereby it is imperative that other drivers in the area are notified or extra attention is required. 

These lights will either be used as a stand-alone light product, such as surface mount LED lights, which can be used away from the car or with the vehicle, or they can be installed onto the emergency vehicle permanently. The lights are either multi-colored or single-colored, depending on how the lights are going to be used. For example, ambulances and fire trucks tend to use white and red lights on the top of their vehicles. 

These strobe lights can be helpful when there is an emergency to ensure that emergency vehicles can move through heavy traffic quickly and safely. This is because the lights will notify other drivers that an emergency vehicle is coming. These lights are usually teamed with noises to make sure that drivers are fully aware that they need to pull to the side to let the emergency vehicle drive past easily.

There are other situations whereby strobe lights are used as well. They are useful in scenarios whereby routine traffic stops are being carried out by police vehicles. When the police car is positioned behind another car and they put their emergency vehicle strobe light on, the driver in front knows that they need to slow their vehicle down and pull the car over. 

Tow truck drivers and construction crews often find that these strobe lights are essential when they are working near a road or on a road. By turning the lights on while they are carrying out work, other drivers can be notified that work is going on. This will ensure that they stay out of the way. While in this scenario the lights are not being used by an emergency vehicle per-say, they can help to make sure that an emergency situation does not arise by keeping everyone alerted and protected. 

How do strobe vehicle lights work?

There are a number of different features and settings that can be used as part of your emergency warning light system, which is why it is critical that you take the time to think about your needs so that you can select the emergency vehicle strobe lights that are going to be right for your car. For example, you will often find that LED light bars need to be installed on top of a truck or car, which ensures that the strobe lights can be seen no matter the angle of the vehicle. 

There are other situations whereby the warning lights, such as a traffic advisor light bar, may be used on their own as a standalone sign so that cars are notified they need to slow down or traffic is redirected. A lot of these warning light bars are going to have different settings that you can choose between. This means that you can adjust the duration of the lights depending on the situation, as well as being able to make changes to the brightness and the flashing patterns too. 

The history of emergency vehicle strobe lights

The use of emergency lights can stem back to the Second World War. This is when Germany used emergency blue lights. In 1935, the Verdunkelung saw cobalt blue emergency lights used for the first time. This was a black-out measure for aerial defense. It replaced the red color that was used in emergency vehicle lights until 1938. Because blue has scattering properties, it is only visible in lower altitudes. Because of this, enemy airplanes were not able to easily spot these lights. 

Since then, lightning technology has developed rapidly, and we have seen different colors used for different circumstances. Blue still remains a popular color of strobe light for police vehicles, although it can often be teamed with white and red. For fire engines, red is the obvious choice. 

These lights have been carefully constructed to ensure that they emit the right shade of every color and the right level of brightness so that there is adequate warning without causing greater risks. It is incredible to think about how far we have come in this regard over the years. Interestingly, just like there are different requirements for light colors overseas, there are different colors used across the United States as well. 

What are some of the different features that come with vehicle strobe lights?

As mentioned in the introduction, there is a large number of vehicle strobe lights that are on the market today, and so this can make it a little bit overwhelming when you are looking for the right strobe lights for your business. To give you a helping hand, we are going to take a look at some of the most common features, as well as when they are most suitable. After all, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to emergency vehicles and emergency situations. You need to make sure you select something that is appropriate for the scenario in question, and we have everything from hideaway strobe lights to full size light bars.

A good example of this includes the different types of flashing patterns that are available. Some of the light bars have different types of flashing patterns included. Therefore, you need to think about what sort of lightning pattern is going to be most appropriate for your requirements.

You also need to carefully consider the colors and brightness of the strobe lights. These need to match the function of the vehicle they are going to be attached to. For example, when looking for cop lights, you should be looking for strobe lights that will use white, blue, and red lights. These shades are limited to use on emergency vehicles.

This is something that you need to understand no matter what type of vehicle you are outfitting. For instance, if you are looking for construction lights for trucks, you need to understand the local laws for emergency vehicles so that you do not end up using light patterns that you shouldn’t. 

If you are struggling to choose the right vehicle strobe lights for your vehicle, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Extreme Tactical Dynamics for more information. Our team has many years of experience in the industry and they will be able to help you select the most appropriate strobe lighting for your vehicle. 

Regulations change from state-to-state

One thing that you definitely need to recognize when it comes to emergency vehicles and the different strobe lights that are available is that regulations change from state-to-state. It is vital to check this out before you start looking for the right emergency vehicle strobe lights for you. We have a knowledge base with all of the different state statutes, so you should have no trouble finding the information you need regarding what sort of emergency lights are going to be right for you. 

We will take a look at some of the regulations for different states below to give you a better understanding. If we do not mention your state in this guide, simply refer to the link mentioned in the previous paragraph and you should have no trouble finding the information that you require for your vehicle. 


In Nebraska, it is the law that police officers need to display rotating or flashing blue, white, or red lights when they are operating in the state at any time. This includes both unmarked and marked vehicles that are being maintained by the police department in the state. For fire trucks, there is the option of using a combination of white and red flashing lights or using just red lights when responding to active calls or a situation. For ambulance vehicles, there is the option of blue, white, and red lights, or red and white, or just red. 


In Massachusetts, cop lights need to be red and blue. These lights need to be mounted to police trucks and vehicles. When the police vehicle is travelling, there needs to be a red light mounting that rotates in reverse direction or flashes. There are also a lot of different vehicles in the police force that need to have blue police lights. This includes university and college police, as well as railroad police departments. For fire departments, there needs to be a flashing or oscillating red light. The same applies to ambulances. It is also worth pointing out that ambulances in Massachusetts are not allowed to use blue lights. 


Next, we are going to take a look at the state statute for emergency vehicle lights in Colorado. If you are based in this state, it is law that police vehicles have a minimum of one signal lamp mounted to their vehicle. This needs to be a rotating, oscillating, or flashing red light, which can be seen no matter the time of day. There are also vehicles from the police force that can use white and blue, white, or blue lights. For vehicles that are designated as the command post vehicle, a green flashing light will be used here. For firefighters, the light needs to be red, and it must be rotating, oscillating, or flashing while it is in use. For ambulances, there needs to be a minimum of one light and it must be mounted to the part of the vehicle that is considered the most practical. Again, the light needs to be red, and it must be rotating, oscillating, or flashing while it is in use. In Colorado, it is possible to use blue and white lights on an ambulance as well. 


In Texas, it has been stated by the Texas Department of Public Safety that police cars may use a combination of blue, white, and red lights. The lights used for the fire departments are red. For both departments, it is a legal requirement that the first responder vehicles have two lights on the rear of the vehicles, as well as two lights on the front of the rigs on the vehicle. 


In California, all authorized emergency vehicles need to have a minimum of one steady burning red lamp. This lamp must be visible from 100-feet. Therefore, this applies to fire trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles as well. Police officers are also permitted to have a flashing blue warning light, which should be visible on the rear, sides, and front of the vehicle. They can also use flashing, steady lights that are attached to the top of the vehicle. 

New Jersey

The final state that we are going to take a look at is New Jersey. The legislation in New Jersey states that the police force can use either red or blue lights. These lights can be used in any confirmation, so long as they are visible. The same applies to the firefighting departments in the state, although the lights need to be red flashing lights. The same sort of lights are to be used by ambulances in the state as well. 

While the regulations may appear very similar, there are small differences from state-to-state in terms of the light colors used, whether you need flashing, oscillating or rotating lights, and the placement of these lights. These are differences that can have a huge impact on the lights that you end up purchasing for your emergency vehicle, which is why it is important to get fully up-to-date with the state regulations that are in place before you go ahead and make a purchase.

What are the different types of strobe vehicle lights that are available?

There are many different types of discount emergency vehicle lights that are for sale. This ensures that you are able to find something that is appropriate for your type of vehicle and the reason you need the lights to begin with. So, let’s take a look at the different types of vehicle lights to give you a better understanding…

  • LED Grille Lights - As the name indicates, these lights can be mounted to your vehicle’s grille. This helps in providing visibility to traffic that is oncoming, as well as lighting the way for the person that is driving the vehicle. These lights are fairly large, ensuring there is more light coverage.
  • Interior Light Bars - These lights can be removed. This means that they are ideal for vehicles that have a dual-purpose, for example, they may be used as an emergency vehicle sometimes, but the vehicle may be used for general runarounds in other occasions. Therefore, if you are only looking for emergency lighting to be used on a rare occasion, this is the type of lightning you should consider. These lights are user-friendly, durable, and very powerful too.
  • LED light bars - When it comes to emergency vehicles and emergency situations, there is no denying that LED light bars are incredibly popular. These full-size bars will typically cover all of the top of your vehicle, or at least most of it. This ensures that there is complete coverage, making these lights very effective. These lights tend to have a number of different flash patterns that you can use and they are very powerful, so you will have no trouble catching the attention of anyone nearby. If you need to take advantage of a 360-degree light pattern, these light bars will be ideal.
  • Mini light bars - If you do not need as much coverage as the light bar that has been just mentioned, but you want a similar sort of product, there are mini light bars that are available on the market. These lights can provide you with flash and pulse as and when needed.
  • Dash lights - Dash and deck lights are excellent in terms of longevity, as well as delivering huge doses of power. They can be fitted to a number of different surfaces across vehicles. They also boast bulbs that can last for as much as 100,000 hours, so you do not need to worry about these lights failing on you anytime soon.
  • Visor lights - Finally, another popular type of emergency strobe lighting that is available for vehicles today is visor lights. These lights represent one of the easiest types of lights to install. In fact, they are typically powered by your vehicle’s cigarette lighter, meaning that ease of use is guaranteed. Nevertheless, just because these lights are very easy to use and install does not mean that they do not provide a good level of illumination and power. They still give you everything that you need to make sure that your vehicle is seen.

Questions you need to ask yourself when purchasing emergency vehicle strobe lights

When you are looking for the best emergency strobe lights for your vehicle, there are a number of questions that you should ask yourself to make sure that you end up with the right lights for your needs. This includes the following…

Do your emergency strobe lights need to be waterproof?

This is something a lot of people overlook when they are looking for emergency vehicle strobe lights. The majority of the lights that we have available on the marketing today come with the IP-67 waterproof rating. However, we also have a number of different lights that boast 100 percent waterproof protection. You should definitely narrow down your search to these lights only if you need emergency lighting that has full waterproofing capabilities. 

Do you need a flash pattern?

A flash pattern can often be found in a lot of the emergency vehicle strobe lights that are on the market. This means that bulbs will flash individually, which will create a pattern. This can be beneficial when you may need to direct traffic with your emergency lights. These sorts of lights can also be beneficial for simply increasing more awareness. If you do not choose a light that has this functionality, then it is basically going to be a static light that is going to be lit for as long as you require it to be. If you have decided that you do want an emergency strobe light that comes with the option of different flash patterns, you are going to have plenty of different options here, so take the time to assess all of the products carefully to find the right one for you. 

How directional do you need the light to be?

When you are looking for lights for emergency vehicles, you often need the lights to be seen from a 360-degree angle, so you need to keep this in mind when you are looking for the best emergency strobe lights for your vehicle. This is because some of the lights that are on the market today will have focused beams, which means they can only be seen fully from one direction. This can be suitable in some cases, i.e. when you need the lights because you are trying to avoid anything that may be in your path. This highlights why you need to carefully consider the direction that the light is going to be in. 

How much light do you need?

It can be very tempting to look for as much light as possible. However, it is important that the light is at a safe level. The last thing you want to do is cause another emergency situation because of the lights that you invest in. It is also important to remember that the power of the lights that you choose will have an impact on the consumption and longevity as well. It is a balancing act. Don’t be afraid to ask for some assistance if you need a helping hand with this. 

What are amber emergency vehicle strobe lights?

There are plenty of different color combinations to choose from when you are buying emergency strobe lights for your vehicle. The majority of the amber strobe lights that are on the market today are used for professional reasons. However, there are some cases whereby amber strobe lights may be used for voluntary tasks, for example, volunteer firefighters. 

You will not typically see amber emergency vehicle lights used by those in the police, ambulance, or firefighting sector. However, there are a number of other situations whereby you may notice amber emergency vehicle lights. This includes the following:

    Auto-repair vehicles
  • Maintenance vehicles
  • Security vehicles
  • Utility vehicles
  • Wreckers
  • Construction vehicles

So there you have it: everything that you need to know about emergency vehicle strobe lights and the different options that are available today. We hope that this information will help you to understand the features that are available and the different factors that need to be considered when you are purchasing emergency strobe lights for your vehicle, no matter whether you are looking for cop lights, firefighter lights, or something else. Check out the rest of our site to find emergency and police lights for sale.

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