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Emergency Vehicle Operation, EMS, HMHQ

Missing the Grind of the Lightbar

I was doing some math and realized my career in EMS has reached past middle aged.  I have 18 years in and 17 to go.

It made me think of how I am still perceived as a new guy by some and an out of touch almost dinosaur by others.

Thinking back to the early days of when I realized this was what I wanted to do brought back some memories many in this field will never experience.

 

For example:

Manual transmission water tender.  My first paid unit was a 1970s 10 speed double clutch 1000 gallon water Tender.  I learned to drive code 3, work the siren and shift, all while reaching a top speed somewhere in the high 40s.

But as memories went through my head of that beast of a unit a certain sound crept into my head and has stuck for a few days:

 

The grinding of the rotators in the lightbar.

While some of you might still have an “old” rotating lightbar, most of you are likely used to all manner of flashing light bulbs and diodes.

Back in the olden days we had lights that turned on and spun around in circles.  Our old rescue truck on the Reservation had 3 bright white lights mounted on a 12″ diameter spinning disk covered with a sun bleached almost still reddish pink cover.  When you turned it on and pulled out of the station is spun slowly.  When you pressed the button for the old Federal Q siren mounted on the front bumper it would slow and almost stop.  It was not uncommon to reach the scene and go to work only to see the beacon slowly begin to dim as the alternator on the ford pickup could no longer keep it shining and turning.  It was later upgraded to a strobe light and we thought that was the neatest thing ever.

On the ambulance was the Code3 standard lightbar of the time, 2 rotating lights and a series of reflectors as well as intersection lights that swept back and forth on each side, apparently designed to get the attention of drivers coming from the sides.  Those rotators were noisy!

That grinding was constant, loud and almost annoying.  And they were especially annoying if one of the reflectors got dislodged and stuck while on a run at night.  Or in the snow.  Or in the rain.  Or at all.  A single beam of bright red or white light trying desperately to distract you from looking at the road.  And Gods help you if it was an intersection light that got stuck!  That was worse than driving code 3 with your alley lights on.

 

Nowadays the kids have these LEDs that blink in ever impressive patterns.  For those noobs unsure of exactly what I’m talking about when I mention the grinding of the old rotators, imagine how much nicer your drive would be without the high beam flasher motor clicking away under the dash.  You’ll be glad when it’s gone, then 15 years later remember when things were bigger, clunkier and less efficient and miss it ever so slightly.

 

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