Reflective tape trumps yellow paint

Reflective tape trumps yellow paint



The South Orange, NJ, Fire Department has come up with an idea that they feel is an effective alternative to lime yellow or chrome yellow painted apparatus—reflective tape.

The idea of striping the apparatus was conceived prior to the arrival of a new rescue truck. The chief’s car is the department’s only piece of yellow equipment, and Chief Pasquale Giordano was not convinced that yellow was the answer to the apparatus’ visibility and safety problem. Primarily through the chief’s experience of driving his car to emergencies, the opinion was formulated that the public did not associate yellow with an emergency response vehicle. In addition, the paint on the chief’s car was not reflective, and the chief felt that the reflection of the warning lights played the major part in vehicle visibility.

As a result, the chief began to experiment with striping that could be adapted to the department’s line apparatus. He felt this would increase safety, and be an economical alternative to an expensive paint job.

Photo by John M. Malecky

In the photos above and below, the value of relatively inexpensive reflective tape is evident. The ladder apparatus’ visibility is enhanced by day and vividly reflected by night.

Photo by John M. Malecky

The material chosen was Day/Night Highly Reflective Tape manufactured by the 3M Company. Strips were cut into widths of 1/2 inch and one inch, and applied by an outside firm that sold the tape. The reflective tape was also applied above the gold leaf trimming on each apparatus The reflective tape actually enhanced the daylight appearance of the rigs by complimenting the gold leaf. At night, headlights from approaching vehicles cause the apparatus to “light up like a Christmas tree,” according to Chief Giordano.

Subsequently, the department’s new rescue truck was ordered with a factory installed wide white reflective belt, contrasting its red color.

The department has further ideas to expand the use of the reflective tape for marking hydrants and other city emergency vehicles. Eventually, a drive may be started to convince homeowners to use reflective tape for their housed numbers.

The controversy may go on as to which color is better suited for fire apparatus; but for South Orange, a mixture of traditional red paint and reflective tape seem to work together for safety, identity, and economy.

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