One of the big problems with the LE industry — and it is an industry, with manufacturers, trainers, trends, goals, employees, etc. — is there are rarely standards in place to judge products. While some professional organizations like the NTOA offer “approval” ratings, and the NIJ offers standards for vests, until recently, there were no objective standards for lighting devices. Then in 2009 the lighting industry got together and formed PLATO (Portable Lights American Trade Organization).
According to David Costello, Executive Director of PLATO, “PLATO was formed to ensure buyers and users of portable lighting — including flashlights, headlamps and spotlights — are able to purchase lighting products that absolutely perform as advertised.”
“The leaders within the industry have worked together to create ANSI standards for flashlight performance, including light output, runtime, beam distance and impact resistance. These standards are a direct benefit to law enforcement personnel whose lives may depend on a well-made, high performance flashlight providing essential illumination in critical situations.”
We see a lot of flashlights here at American COP, and even now, non-PLATO members will often attempt to bluff buyers with false advertising. We only recently received a small, single CR123 cell light, obviously poor quality, which advertised “Over 2,000 lumens of tactical light!” with a “Runtime of over one hour!” Right. It reminds me of the old car ads for Isuzu featuring “Joe Isuzu” making ridiculous claims like, “Our new model gets 150 miles per gallon and can go zero to 60 in 3 seconds” while impishly grinning at the camera.
With PLATO in place, the 24 members representing almost all the significant light manufacturers in the industry (companies like ASP, SureFire, Streamlight, 5.11, Golight, Dorcy, Energizer, Fenix, Gerber, Panasonic, etc.) actively work toward maintaining high standards, which are enforced across the brands. If you say your light delivers 500 lumens, it really has to deliver 500 lumens. All companies adhere to the standards in place and represent those categories using agreed-upon icons on their packaging.
David Costello warns, “Officers should be sure to look for lighting products that use the ANSI/NEMA FL 1 standard icons on their products to be sure of having the product performance they need to execute their duties.”
PLATO is actively enforcing the correct use of the ANSI/NEMA FL1 standards by makers of lighting devices. Their goal is to lead companies to correct performance claims, help buyers get what they are paying for and eliminate claims made by some lighting manufacturers that are simply not true.
We applaud this forward-thinking move by these companies to assure accountability and performance standards in this extremely important segment of the industry. Lights save lives every day, and it’s nice to know the one you’re about to buy really does deliver on its promises.