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Lightsticks
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Lightsticks

Lightsticks are translucent plastic tubes sealed at both ends containing a glass ampule surrounded by an activating solution. When the tube is bent (forcibly flexed), the ampule breaks, the solutions mix (be sure to shake well) and the tubes become luminous. They come on various colors (yellow, blue, red, green, orange, and ocasionally white), shapes and lengths. Depending on the length they may stay glowing for from thirty minutes to twelve hours. The light diminishes as time goes on.

There are several manufacturers, as the patents have expired. These were originally developed by Bell Labs and American Cyanamid at the United States Naval Weapons Station at China Lake for military use during the 1960's.

They produce no heat, require no batteries, and have an extended shelf life (they state four years, but they will last eight). They state they are visible for a mile, but that statement has to be met with skepticism.

They sell individually for from $1.50 to $3.00 U.S. in the six-inch size with various prices for the others.

You need them. You need to buy a case.

I know they are expensive.

They are well worth the money.

To use the lightsticks for signaling you need to tie a string around one end and whirl the lightstick. This will produce a visible circle of light. If you simply hold them in your hand, you will simply get squashed by the train/plane/helicopter/alien spacecraft you are signaling.

Splat.

They don't come with a string or cord so this is something you have to think about getting ready while there is light and your boat is not sinking, preferably while you are at the dock.

They can be duct-taped to a cane or a walker.

If you use them on a boat, keep at least six on each life-jacket, and a string to whirl them around. Red color works for me.

A website suggests the different colors be used for medical triage purposes.  Hmmmm. This statement amazed me. It reminded me of the old drug enforcement commercial "This is your brain on drugs".

Use of them is not intuitive.

If you are supervising a home-care attendant, when they come in you have to sacrifice a lightstick, show them how to bend and break the vial inside, and let them keep the glow-stick to see how much light it providfes in the dark and how long it lasts. They can be safely handled by the very elderly and brought to bed with them.

In the event of a blackout they can be used to mark stairs, obstacles, pathways, danger areas, and yes, even helicopter landing areas.  They were originally developed to mark a landing pad for a helicopter. To do this it is best to use at least eight lightsticks. Tape them together (two each) and place them at four corners of the landing area. They will blow away. If you are on macadem, tape them to the macadem with duct-tape.  They come with an end designed to be attached to a string which can be attached to a stake in the ground. Do not attach them to something which will blow away and become something to cause engine damage. Green works nicely for helicopters.

In total darkness the red ones are best because they preserve your night vision.

Infrared versions are available that can only be seen with a night vision device.

They are useful for signaling.  Some people prefer them for use in motels during blackouts when engaging in extra-marital affairs. Not recommended. Others insist they are perfect for discouraging crocodile attacks.  I have my doubts.

Keep a six-pack taped to the bedside of an elderly person, to supplement flashlights. Also keep them in the bathroom.

They are not a very good substitute for road flares, except where there is a flammable liquid spill (gasoline). You need thirty-minute road flares for primary protection for your car. If you use them on a highway, used them in conjunction with reflectors and use two taped together.

They are a lot of fun for children to play with during holidays and parties.
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Lightsticks are also fun when taped to the spokes of a child's bicycle. Or taped to the handlebars.

They are nice to have when family camping to identify individual tents that may be pitched some distance away, or to mark a safe pathway to a latrine.

They can be taped to a blunt arrow that is attached to a line to be thrown across a river at night. Or to a life-ring that is tossed to people in the water at night.

If a helicopter is dropping emergency supplies at night on the water, the packages can be illuminated with lightsticks. If several are used, and the package floats, one will be above the water line.

They can also be duct-taped to the landing gear of a light aircraft to provide more visibility in darkness.

They can be used to signal, especially to a vehicle backing up in total darkness. A flashlight beam will ruin the driver's night vision. A lightstick (especially a red one) will not.
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