In regards to NYS VAT § 375. Equipment. 41-4
4. Blue light. a. One blue light may be affixed to any motor vehicle
owned by a volunteer member of a fire department or on a motor vehicle
owned by a member of such person\'s family residing in the same household
or by a business enterprise in which such person has a proprietary
interest or by which he or she is employed, provided such volunteer
firefighter has been authorized in writing to so affix a blue light by
the chief of the fire department or company of which he or she is a
member, which authorization shall be subject to revocation at any time
by the chief who issued the same or his or her successor in office. Such
blue light may be displayed exclusively by such volunteer firefighter on
such a vehicle only when engaged in an emergency operation. The use of
blue and red light combinations shall be prohibited on all fire
vehicles. The use of blue lights on fire vehicles shall be prohibited
and the use of blue lights on vehicles shall be restricted for use only
by a volunteer firefighter except as otherwise provided for in
subparagraph b of this paragraph.
Upon reading that sub-paragraph in the VAT for New York state, one might become confused as to what it really means. Often people stop reading after the first line and realize that the whole paragraph describes the authorization for the use of one single blue light, for use in volunteer firefighters vehicles, to be displayed in emergency situations.
This is how urban legends and myths come about. Similar popular myths also include the fact that "as long as it is displayed only to the rear, red lights are alright on volunteer firefighters vehicles". This myth is quite clearly prohibited if you read this sub-paragraph.
Fact of the matter is, that this law has been very loosely written in order to allow local companies and townships the ability to define the law as they see fit. The term 'light' is not defined anywhere in the document, and thusly can refer to any unit which is capable of producing one or more light sources. For example, take a Traffic Light. Your standard Traffic Light has 3 light bulbs in it, but as a unit, it is called a single light. Another example is a chandelier (or similar hanging light fixture), which is often referred to as a 'light' meanwhile you can clearly recognize that a chandelier has many blubs or other sources of light located on it as a complete unit.
This suggests that full length lightbars are allowed, as defined by the law, no matter how many bulbs are located in the lightbar (unit).
Let us also pay attention to that word "may". This word lets us choose if we want to display the light or not. It gives us an option. There is no where in this document which states that we are limited to one light, or prohibited from having more then one light displayed on a vehicle in emergency situations. In fact near the bottom of the sub-paragraph, 'light' is used in plural.
"the use of blue lights on vehicles shall be restricted for use only by a volunteer firefighter"
Further to this, we are to display this light on our vehicle "only when engaged in an emergency operation". In order to meet SAE J2498 safety standards for vehicles engaged in emergency roadside operations, there is a minimum number of lights needed in order to ensure safety and also for liability reasons. Light output for SAE J2498 Emergency Vehicle Operating Standards, requires a minimum of 1,000,000 candela to the front, and a minimum of 200,000 candela to each side. It is technically impossible for a single dash mounted light to produce the required light output to achieve this SAE standard.
In conclusion, blue lights on volunteer firefighter vehicles are allowed as far as I can tell. There is no definition or limit clearly defined. Heck, they don't even have to flash according to this law (which is interesting, because all the local NFTA Busses, have either solid RED, GREEN, or BLUE lights which shine out their front window displaying what type of bus it is. That is not accounted for in the VAT). The first part of the law has not been revised lately, or been brought up to modern safety (SAE) standards for emergency operations. Emergency operations will often include a volunteer stopping at an accident that they came across (and were not dispatched to) and stopping because they were the first one on scene. This is perfectly acceptable and a legal use of blue lights. If you are on a highway because you got in an accident, and a volunteer firefighter comes by, would you rather him/her have lights which meet SAE standards for emergency vehicles? or a single blue light on the dashboard? If I was stuck on the highway and someone stopped for me, I would hope to God that their lights meet SAE specifications, in order to help protect myself and my family.
This post is in response to a issues involving some Vector bars which were recently acquired and some local volunteers plan on using as an upgrade to their current blue lights. The Vector bar is a lightbar with 7 pods and 4 or 5 rotators. However it has no mirrors or reflectors, so quite honestly, you get less 'flashes per minute' with a Vector then you do with a LP6000 or MX7000 lightbar, both of which are completely accepted, have 4 rotators, and are also full length lightbars.
It is also interesting to note that no where in the VAT as far as I have seen, does it specify that the blue light is a courtesy light???