Laser light displays pose potential hazards

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- A low-cost home laser projector is raising concerns about the effect it may have on pilots, if not installed properly.

Over the last couple years, more households are using laser projector for exterior decorations for Christmas. The projector emits thousands of laser beams from two sources, one red and one green.

Sergeant Doug Russell, who is the Chief Pilot for Washoe County's RAVEN helicopters; says last holiday season, he had to deal with laser lights not positioned at the homes, but instead a portion of them facing the sky.

"It's very distracting. You can't tell if it's decorations or if it's somebody's laser sight system on a rifle. You can't really tell a difference," says Russell.

Russell says in the last two to three years, the laser decorations have temporarily blinded him and another RAVEN pilot while flying at least six times.

Care Flight crew members have had to deal with a few laser decoration incidents the last couple of years.

"It's not quite as high-powered as handheld high-powered lasers, but they still can blind a pilot or distract a pilot," said Markus Dorsey-Hirt, Chief Flight Nurse.

Both RAVEN and Care Flight recommend homeowners with laser projectors make sure the lights don't go beyond the roof.