Australian Fire Danger Signs Go Digital, But They’re Not Always Bright Enough To Do The Job

November 2, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Photo: ABC News, Cathy Border

Here’s a case of a good intentions but flawed execution – fire danger rating signs made easier to update by going digital, but not bright enough for people to read on sunny, hazy days.

The rural fire service in Queensland, a state in Australia, switched over from analog road signs in an effort to reduce the time and work needed to do updates, and reduce the risk of the signs being manipulated by people who thought they were being funny.

But there are complaints and concerns now that the coarse pitch LEDs being used by the signs are hard to read when there are indeed fire dangers present, because of glare and ambient smoke.

From broadcaster ABC’s news site:

After changes to Australia’s Fire Danger Rating System in September last year, 86 new digital signs have been put in place in Queensland.

But some people say sun glare can make digital writing on the signs difficult to see.

“In smoky periods like this it makes it even harder to read because the glare of the sun is emphasised in the smoke,” south east Queensland resident Belinda Whitby said.

Ms Whitby, who lives in the state’s Scenic Rim, said the digital signs had poorer visibility than those they replaced as smoke haze blanketed the region this week.

Other residents have said the signs are, however, much easier to see and read after the sun goes down, as the LED lights are more easily visible after dark.

The LED portions of these signs are not terribly big, so switching over to lights bright enough to cut through glare – at least 2,500 nits – wouldn’t be a huge capital hit … but there would indeed be more labor costs. The photo suggests these signs may be powered by solar collectors on canopies above them, so that could perhaps impact just how much brightness can be driven???

The Australian minister whose portfolio includes emergency management says new systems like this can have teething problems, and that his government will “work with the states and territories to make sure that anything like that gets fixed.”

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