Investing In Excellence: Choosing Emergency Warning and Illumination Products with Lasting Value 

By David Robbins, Vice President of Marketing, Whelen Engineering

This article was first published in the February 2024 edition of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

As the emergency warning and lighting industry grows, customers are faced with the challenge of comparison shopping to ensure that each apparatus in their department is outfitted with the most reliable products available. Product features, quality, and reputation factor heavily into choosing the right company to do business with. But in a competitive market, true differentiation comes down to so much more than the price tag or even the product itself. Savvy departments must make their decisions based on a total value proposition that extends beyond the sale and prioritizes superior customer service.
Top-tier companies recognize this need and aim to go above and beyond the industry standard by providing exceptional service and support in addition to high-quality products. Learning to identify companies that offer long-term value via robust sales and service programs can save agencies time while also helping teams operate with excellence.

In the world of emergency response where every second counts, the importance of fast-acting customer service cannot be overstated. Firefighters operate in an environment where unforeseen challenges can arise at any time and demand their immediate attention. “Swift and efficient customer support is a crucial factor in maintaining the readiness of emergency vehicles,” says Matt Kehoe, Director of Fire, EMS, and Amber Sales for Whelen Engineering. “It’s not just a service but an added value that directly translates to reliable user safety.”
For fire agencies, where reliability and efficiency are paramount, an extensive network of boots on the ground that are available for in-person support can ensure that challenges are swiftly addressed, minimizing downtime, and guaranteeing specialized solutions. Emergency situations demand seamless functionality, so a responsive sales and service team becomes the lifeline in navigating potential issues. This level of responsiveness is not just a convenience; it directly influences the operational efficiency of emergency vehicles and, by extension, the overall effectiveness of a fire department. By choosing a company that understands the urgency of their mission and one that is equipped to offer quick, reliable support, departments can reinforce the readiness of their emergency illumination.
“The true value of a company extends far beyond the products it sells,” says Kehoe. “A wide network of customer-dedicated sales, service, and Field Solutions Engineers, as we are fortunate to have at Whelen, is a cornerstone of lasting relationships and ensures that fire departments can trust that they’ll have access to the support they need to operate at the highest level.”
Before choosing a supplier, consider asking:

  • How quickly can I expect a response from your team in case of a problem or urgent issue?
  • How many specialists cover my region?
  • How close to my agency is the nearest specialist who could offer in-person support?

Effective product training is an indispensable component in maximizing the potential of any emergency warning and lighting system within fire departments. Unfortunately, it isn’t always offered, leaving some departments to fend for themselves and miss the full potential of the products they rely on. To operate at the highest level, departments require a thorough understanding of the features and capabilities inherent in the equipment they use. Comprehensive training empowers firefighters to harness the full functionality of their warning and illumination systems, enabling them to respond to diverse situations with precision and efficiency. Familiarity with advanced features ensures that teams can adapt quickly to evolving emergency scenarios, leveraging the technology to its fullest potential. Moreover, a well-trained team is better equipped to troubleshoot and address minor issues promptly, reducing the likelihood of avoidable system downtime.
Whelen’s Matt Kehoe believes product training is an essential customer service offering. He says, “Providing product training opportunities is an obvious choice to us because we know it helps firefighters to fully understand the products they’re working with, making them better equipped to focus on the critical tasks in front of them.”
Before choosing a supplier, consider asking:

  • What type of product training is available?
  • Can product training be customized to meet the specific needs of our agency?
  • Is the training provided on-site, virtually, or through a combination of both?

When comparison shopping for emergency warning systems and illumination, a company’s vertical integration capabilities must not be overlooked, especially when considering its profound impact on long-term support. Companies, like Whelen, that maintain control of each product from design and manufacturing to distribution and service are better equipped to respond promptly to product needs, and support service and warranties throughout the lifespan of an apparatus. This level of responsiveness minimizes downtime and guarantees specialized solutions, directly enhancing the operational efficiency of fire departments. “Vertical integration allows us to be reliable teammates and not just suppliers to our customers,” says Kehoe. “It allows us to act fast when they need us, provide solutions based on an in-depth knowledge of the product, and pass that knowledge on through comprehensive training.”
Before choosing a supplier, consider asking:

  • What level of involvement does the company have in the entire production process, from design to distribution?
  • Can you provide examples of how vertical integration has helped the company proactively address issues or improve product features based on customer feedback?

As fire departments evaluate their options, the decision to choose one company over another is fundamentally about trust. Who can be trusted to keep showing up after the sale is made? Choosing the right company – one that delivers the highest quality products and is devoted to providing unparalleled service – is about more than just preference or price tags. It’s about honoring an obligation to those who selflessly dedicate themselves to serving others and ensuring they have the tools and support needed to succeed.
Firefighters give their best to their communities every day. They deserve nothing but the best in return from the companies they trust to provide their critical equipment. In this relationship, excellence isn’t just a goal but rather it is a shared commitment to safety, reliability, and preparedness that define the calling of those who stand ready to protect and serve.

Access to a wide network of customer-focused sales and support services allows Whelen customers to operate with maximum operational efficiency.
A Whelen sales representative answers questions about Whelen’s white illumination products at FDIC.