When we serve as weather and disaster observers, whether at home, work, or while mobile we take certain risks. Our first duty and duty above any other (including submitting reports), is safety. We must keep ourselves safe and we must not do anything that would jeopardise anyone else's safety. Safety is a topic we can never go over too much. It should always be on our mind when serving as a volunteer weather and disaster observer. We must keep in mind that weather and disaster observers do not have to operate mobile or that we as observes can transgress traffic laws while observing severe weather or disasters. Being mobile does give us the advantage of observing incoming weather and disasters from a better vantage point and the ability to leave the area if it becomes to dangerous. Overall storm and disaster observation while mobile is far riskier than observing from a fixed location.
After nearly being wiped out recently by an inconsiderate and fast driving motorist in foggy conditions in the Mossel Bay area, I decided that extra measures must be taken to be more visible to other motorists while doing mobile observations. I decided to investigate the purchasing of an amber led flasher unit to hopefully make my vehicle more visible when visibility is seriously reduced. Some might see this as an overkill as all vehicles are fitted with emergency flasher units. However these are far from effective at longer distances and no harm can be done warning motorists of a stationary vehicle or slow moving vehicle on or alongside the road. I looked at commercial units but they were too pricey and I decided to roll my own unit.
I used two redundant vehicle spotlights and modified the base stand of the spotlights to adhere magnetically to the dashboard in the back of my vehicle. After removing the spotlight globes I installed an array of 12 large amber LED lights in each spotlight. The 12 LED's gives enough light to serve as an emergency flasher unit. Now to the brain of the flasher unit. I looked at several options but decided to purchase a two-channel hi-power led flasher kit as I was in a hurry to get the project up and running, . The kit consisted of a PCB and loose components. I constructed the kit and was able to test the unit within an hour. It worked flawlessly.
The led flasher kit has the following functions:
- two channels
- adjustable speed
- detachable LED PCB's
- high power mosfet outputs (3 Amp per channel)
- memory for last selected effect
- single button selection
- supply voltage 12 volt DC
I added a cabinet, off/on switch, speed control potentiometer, mode setting switch and channel board. The unit was thoroughly tested and worked like a charm. Cost was considerable lower that any commercial unit I could find.
Hopefully the SAWDIS Flasher Unit will keep me and other motorists safe. Think of the lights in the same context as a construction crew. The lights don't help you dig the hole but hopefully keeps idiots from running you over and putting you in a hole, permanently. I am also aware that the the flasher unit do not give me special privileges as a road user or that I am now allowed to transgress traffic laws. The main aim of this project is to be more visible should I be required to do observations during severe weather and disasters.
Safety should never be compromised and we as observers should always help minimize some risks by following certain safety guidelines, taking some preparatory measures, and making sure that we are properly equipped for weather and disaster observations!
Images: SAWDIS (Click on images for larger view.)