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Groups complete new flashlight standards

Some of the key players in the flashlight and spotlight industry recently came together and addressed a problem that had been increasingly plaguing both the industry and the consumer.

The problem, fueled by rapid improvements in technology, has been that some manufacturers were making what many consider to be wild claims as to the function of their products, and there was no uniform accepted standard to validate these claims. It's not unusual when purchasing a flashlight or spotlight to see packaging proclaiming more and more millions of "candle power" and other alleged features. Manufacturers trying to factually market high-quality products have been at a disadvantage, as have been consumers trying to buy a light that does what they need and want.

In late 2006, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association was approached by a representative of a battery manufacturer member that also makes flashlights with a proposal that NEMA help in setting standards for flashlights and related products. The project took off and experts from various companies, many of whom were and are competitors, formed a committee to create a standard to cover "basic performance of hand-held/portable flashlights, spotlights and headlamps providing directional lighting." A stated goal was to not only specifically define performance criteria but also testing methods, both of which could be easily verifiable by third parties.

Help and approval was elicited from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). NEMA program manager Andrei Moldoveanu, who is experienced in NEMA and ANSI standard setting, worked with the group. After more than two years of work, the ANSI/NEMA FL 1 Flashlight Basic Performance Standard was approved Aug. 18 as an American National Standard. The standard has now been published by NEMA and can be viewed, or a hardcopy or electronic copy purchased for $60, by visiting http://www.nema.org/stds/fl1.cfm, or by contacting IHS at (800) 854-7179 (within the U.S.); (303) 397-7956 (international); (303) 397-2740 (fax); or global.ihs.com.

The consumer will now be able to evaluate products by looking for packaging with icons that are stamped with the logo: FL1 Standard (click here for a look at the logos). The icons will have units of value indicating ratings specific to that product. There are six categories: Beam Distance, Light Output (measured in Lumens); Impact Resistance; Run Time; Enclosure Rating (Water Resistant, Waterproof or Submersible); and Peak Beam Intensity (measured in Candela or cd).

Compliance with these standards is voluntary and compliance is not a certification, wherein an independent third party such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has evaluated the product. However, compliance with these standards should mean that the company has tested its product according to the specifically defined methodology in the standards and is reporting the results using the specifically defined units of value. It should also mean that false and misleading advertising could be readily proven should that occur. And, more importantly, one would assume that the public will be more likely to buy those products.

The companies that gave of their time and expertise to the project were Dorcy International; Princeton Tec; Coast; Surefire; Golight; Petzl; The Brinkmann Corporation; Energizer Holdings; Streamlight; Cateye; Black Diamond Equipment; The Coleman Company; and Duracell. Peter Nario-Redmond of Energizer Holdings served as committee chairman.

— Tom Neale

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