Not all of my Automotive Adventures are with my own cars. A few years ago I was approached by a local medical response charity, CSI Basics, to help them with emergency blue light installation into their responder’s cars.
Cheshire and Shropshire Immediate Care Group
Cheshire and Shropshire Immediate Care Group (CSI) are part of the broader BASICs group. They support ambulance and rescue services with specialist medical volunteers. The group is a recognised charity, funded entirely by donation, and this means the volunteers use their own vehicles for transport to incidents.
Because of the sorts of medical incidents that the volunteers attend, response time is critical. Once suitably trained for blue light response driving, the volunteers need their own cars suitably illuminated. The lighting gives them some protection both travelling to the scene and on arrival.
Buying the right lights
Running wiring and connecting all the lights is relatively straight forward for me, but getting the right lights can be a little trickier. There is a huge range of options for varying budgets. If you don’t mind occasional failures and replacement, then there are plenty of options on eBay and Aliexpress. These are also ideal if you’re in slow-moving or stationary positions where light output isn’t too important.
But for these cars, they need to be bright, reliable, and low power. As a result, we try to fit Whelen lighting products where the budget allows. The Whelan Vertex and Ion ranges meet the CSI needs very well. The UK agent, Woodway Engineering, provides some excellent accessories and controllers. Typically we install the Uni-Link controller as it allows all the modes required to be controlled by a single button press.
Installing the Blue Lights
Installing the blue lights is something of a team effort, with multiple volunteers pitching in to add there own areas of skill to the conversion. We also like to have the owner of the car involved so they can experience the devastation first hand. This will also give them a unique insight as to how the system works.
After doing a few blue light installations together, we’ve got into a good groove. While I find somewhere to locate the Uni-Link controller, others are pulling out the interior and starting the fixing of the lighting units to the cars. Then once the controller is mounted, we can start running cables through the vehicle.
With the Uni-Link installed and powered up, we can start to make connections to the lights. We can test each bank of lights at a time before putting the car back together. A lot of the lights need to be synchronised and programmed which is straight forward but always gives me a headache trying to set them up.
Covert Vs Externally Mounted
As the cars are privately owned by the volunteers, there is always a need to balance the function and practicality of the lighting. While roof-mounted lighting is the fastest way to get 360-degree illumination, it can be a drag to live with. Any roof mounting will add noise and reduce the cars day to day fuel efficiency, but it also attracts attention and limits usefulness. The roof lights add an extra challenge to using roof cars for a quick trip to IKEA for a billy bookshelf.
Once the blue lights are installed and the siren wired up, the complete system can be tested. Hopefully, we haven’t damaged any wires or left too many screws out at this point. The final test of the blue light installation is always a little nerve-wracking. But the child in me is always super excited when the blue lights are all installed and flashing away.
I’m proud that I am able to support CSI Basics with their fleet and humbled that they recently recognised my input with an official ‘Fleet Support’ jacket. Being honest, I’m happy to provide my time to know that they can provide this volunteer-based service, you never know when you might need it. Oh, and they bribe me with Haribo to do the installations!