In movies and TV programs, dark parking lots are focal points of criminal activity. There’s one common scenario that has been repeated over and over again. A young lady is walking down a street at night. As she gets near a poorly lit parking lot, she sees an outline of a person in the dark. She quickens her walking pace, but the person gets nearer and nearer.
This scenario has been repeated so many times we always know that a crime is going to happen the next minute. Vehicle theft and muggings may not be the only criminal activities that take place in dark parking lots, but they are the most common.
Almost every company today has a parking lot. Parking lots have become vital in most business environments because clients, employees, and visitors use them to enter and exit commercial properties and to park their cars. During the day, commercial parking lots are perfectly illuminated by natural light. Visibility is clear and there are no safety concerns. However, at night, good lighting is what determines whether a parking lot is safe and secure and if there’s clear visibility.
At night, people avoid parking lots that are not well-lit as they do not feel safe. And they are right in doing so. Poorly lit parking lots attract robberies, burglaries, vehicle break-ins, and vehicle theft. Poor visibility in parking lots also results in safety issues like vehicle accidents and personal injury incidences. Additionally, people usually think a business is closed if the parking lot outside is not well lit. They may drive to another commercial property to do business, costing a company a lot of revenue time and again.
If you own or manage a commercial property, there’s no benefit you’ll get from skimping on parking lot lighting. In fact, a badly lit parking lot will only work against your property. Dark parking lots invite crime and danger and cause businesses located inside the property to lose revenue. If a crime happens, security cameras won’t be able to record clear footage because of the bad lighting. And depending on the situation, you may end up being prosecuted – something you could have avoided from the get-go.
What You Should Do As a Facility Manager
One of the first things you should do is evaluate the parking lot lighting to determine whether it is in need of maintenance or a serious upgrade. While lighting alone will not get rid of crime in your parking lot, high-quality lighting placed in the right location may prevent criminals from stealing vehicles or breaking into them.
Good parking lot lighting will also deter other criminal activities that usually take place in dark parking lots. Research has shown that 40% of violent crimes happen in parking lots. A 4-year study that was carried out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics recorded 110,000 property crimes in commercial parking lots and garages alone.
While there are a myriad of opinions on the role that lighting plays in property security, there are some great positives. First, proper lighting enables customers, employees, and residents to see better as they drive around the parking lot, in building entrances and exits, in areas such as loading docks, and around walkways.
If a crime takes place in a well-lit parking lot, witnesses can clearly see important details about offenders such as their clothing, hair color, and license plate numbers. High-quality lighting also helps people in a parking lot to look out for each other.
You should not only pay attention to the lighting inside your building, you should also focus on parking lot lighting. This lighting is particularly important in properties where cars are parked for several hours – such as shopping malls, hospitals, sports complexes, concert centers, and churches.
While you should consider installing security cameras and alarms to enhance security and safety, installing high-quality LED lighting in the most appropriate location can play an important role in making the parking lot safer for business owners, customers, staff, visitors, and residents.
How to Make Your Parking Lot Safer: 5 Great Tips
If you want to make sure that your parking lot is well-lit, there are 4 ways to go about it.
1. Carry Out Maintenance on Parking Lot Lighting
Lighting maintenance refers to the updating, upkeep, and replacement of lighting fixtures. While it is often overlooked, proper lighting maintenance can play a large role in decreasing utility bills, especially for properties where lighting accounts for approximately 20% of the total energy consumed.
Most of the time, facility managers don’t have detailed lighting maintenance policies – all they do is replace burnt-out bulbs. Failure to maintain lighting fixtures can result in visual degradation, contributing to higher utility costs.
If you use high intensity discharge lamps in your parking lot, their lighting levels will decrease over time because these light fixtures lose their brightness as they age. Dust and debris on lamps can also affect the illumination. Consider replacing these light fixtures with LEDs which have a low rate of lumen depreciation and do not need to be replaced every now and then because of their long lifespans.
HID lamps require a lot of maintenance as you have to replace the lenses as soon as they appear yellow. The lights also have to be replaced en masse to save on labor costs, to keep illumination high, and to avoid stressing ballasts with dying bulbs.
Basic light maintenance tactics include cleaning the fixtures and their housings every 6 to 24 months and dusting them regularly. You should also inspect all of the parking lot lights every week to ensure they’re working.
2. Replace Light Fixtures That Are Burnt Out
Burnt-out bulbs in a parking lot can lead to uneven light coverage and an increase in vandalism and other dangerous situations. A dark parking lot also sends out a negative message about your property and your neglect of such a vital area.
The location of burnt-out bulbs in your parking lot is also important. If several lights close to each other are burnt out, or if they are in key areas such as entrances, exits, sidewalks, walkways, or next to dumpsters, those bulbs should be replaced very quickly.
As the owner or manager of the parking lot, you have a responsibility to protect the people who use the area. Do not wait until it is too late, change out spoiled or dim lights as soon as you can.
3. Replace High Intensity Discharge Lamps With LEDs
Most parking lot lighting poles use metal halide or high pressure sodium lamps. But these lamps consume a lot of electricity and take 10 to 15 minutes to attain full brightness. They are also omnidirectional and discharge light in all directions. To prevent wastage of light, reflectors are normally used to transmit the light to a specific area. But reflectors are not completely efficient and a lot of lumens are lost as they bounce off them and back to the light fixtures.
During the reflective process, up to 30% of lumens can be lost. This means that a high intensity discharge bulb supposed to generate 20,000 lumens may only generate 17,000 lumens. Before you replace HID lamps with LEDs, get a lighting expert to evaluate the brightness of the bulbs. They will tell you the LEDs that will make perfect replacements for the traditional lighting systems.
LEDs distribute light more effectively in a parking lot, require less maintenance, and lower your utility bill. They discharge white light which helps people to identify figures, colors, and shapes. They are also kinder to the environment and can last up to 100,000 hours, doing away with the need to change-out bulbs frequently.
4. Go For Dusk to Dawn Lights or Install Motion Sensors
Dusk to dawn parking lot lights have LEDs with photocells that turn the light on at night and turn it off in the morning, when it becomes bright again. You can think of photocells as light sensors. They are extremely good at detecting light and work as light-sensitive resistors.
When the surrounding environment is dark, their resistance increases, sending a signal to the circuit to provide more current. When the surrounding environment becomes bright, their resistance goes down, signaling to the circuit to provide less current. They ensure that lights are only on when they need to be on, prolonging the lifetimes of the LEDs, lowering maintenance costs, and reducing electricity consumption.
LEDs work very well with motion sensors which switch on lights upon detecting any motion close by and switch off lights if there’s no motion. These sensors are perfect for exterior spaces that don’t need to be lit all the time.
6 Important Takeaways
Now that we’ve told you how to make your parking lot safer with high-quality lighting, here are 6 important things to remember.
- LED parking lot lighting can reduce lighting maintenance costs, lower energy costs, and improve safety and security
- When replacing traditional lighting systems with LED lighting, don’t only focus on the under-lit areas. Focus on all areas of the parking lot and consider the LED light quality (as LEDs vary in quality). Also look at the areas that are over-illuminated so as to reduce glare and energy output
- Keep in mind that LEDs produce higher-quality light than conventional light sources. This means less fixtures may be needed in the parking lot to make it well lit. Get a lighting designer to carry out a lighting audit and determine the amount of light needed in the parking lot
- If you want to lower the energy consumption of parking lot lights by up to 90%, consider pairing LEDs with lighting controls such as motion sensors or using dusk to dawn lights
- Building security is a complex matter and lighting isn’t the only thing you need to look at. Consider installing surveillance cameras as well as security alarms to make the place more safe at night
- Assess the parking lot every week to determine where lighting can be increased, decreased, or altered