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Warning lights or warning beacons are used to signal a hazardous situation. Applications for emergency warning lights include security, burglary, fire, smoke, equipment malfunction, process monitoring, and vehicle safety, among others. They are also used to indicate a hazardous area such as construction safety lights. Safety warning lights may use bulbs or lamps, and LED warning lights are popular because they operate cooler and last longer.

There are many types of warning lights including continuous or flashing warning lights with varying flash rates. Strobe warning lights produce high-intensity short-duration light pulses. Rotating warning lights are available in various colors and are sometimes mounted on vehicles. Warning light bars for emergency vehicles might contain combinations of strobe, revolving, or flashing lights in yellow, red, amber, green, and blue. LED warning lights are available with a digital display. Some safety warning systems are available with audio and visual alarm combinations. Solar warning lights are often used outdoors.

Warning lights are often available with features, which may include submersible or explosion-proof housings, Acknowledge/Silence buttons, outdoor ratings, or intrinsically safe operation for industrial warning lights which avoid sparking that might cause an explosion.

Aircraft warning lights are high-intensity lighting devices that are attached to tall structures and are used as collision avoidance measures. Such devices make structures more visible to passing aircraft and are usually used at night, although they may be used during the day as well. These lights need to be of sufficient brightness in order to be visible for miles around the structure.

Traditionally, red lamps (or beacons) use incandescent filament bulbs. In order to improve the otherwise quite short lifespan, they are made with a ruggedised design and are run below normal operating power (under-running). A recent development has been the use of arrays of high-power red LEDs in place of incandescent bulbs, which has only been possible since the development of LEDs of sufficient brightness. LED-based lamps have a significantly longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, thus reducing maintenance costs and increasing reliability. Several manufacturers have also developed medium-intensity white strobes based on LED technology to replace xenon. Xenon flashers, whilst more visually impressive, tend to require frequent replacement and so have become a less favoured option. However, with the advent of LEDs, white strobes are still somewhat desired.[citation needed]

It is common to find structures with white xenon flashers/white strobes during the daytime, and red lights at night. Red lights are commonly found to be used in urban areas, since it is easier for pilots to spot them from above. White strobes (that flash round the clock) may also be used in urban areas. However, it has been recommended that flashing white strobes should not be used in densely populated areas; the lights usually merge with background lighting at nighttime, making it difficult for pilots to spot them and thereby aggravating the hazard. In addition, residents near the lit structure will complain of light trespass. In rural areas, red beacons/strobes may also be used during nighttime. However, white strobes are (sometimes) preferred since they reduce the maintenance cost (i.e. no maintenance of painting, no red side lights) and there are no background lights that would blend with the strobes.[citation needed]

There are a medium-intensity white strobe and a high-intensity white strobe. Medium-intensity white strobes are usually used on structures that are between 200–500 feet (61-152.4 meters). If a medium white strobe is used on a structure greater than 500 feet (152.4 meters), the structure must be painted. The common medium white strobe flashes 40 times in a minute, at an intensity of 20,000 candelas for daytime/twilight, and 2,000 candelas at nighttime.


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