Hurricane lamps are lanterns which are designed to stay lit in windy conditions. The design of a hurricane lamp also promotes fire safety, in addition to staying alight, by making it hard for fire to escape from the lamp and spread. These lamps are primarily used decoratively, although in regions where electricity is unreliable or nonexistent, many people use hurricane lamps for everyday lighting. Hardware and lighting supply stores often sell a range of hurricane lamps.
The key element to the design of a hurricane lamp is the tall glass chimney, which shelters the flame in the lantern from the wind. In a simple design, the chimney fits over a container which is designed to hold a candle or oiled wick, and there may be a perforated metal cap for the chimney to add more protection. More rugged versions of hurricane lamps have a framework which encloses the chimney, with a handle on the top so that the lamp can be easily moved.
Classically, hurricane lamps are made with a clear glass chimney, which may be reinforced with metal wire in the case of a ruggedized version. In ornamental lamps, the glass may be etched or painted with various designs, which obscure the light, but make the lantern more interesting to look at. Colored glass can also be used, with colored hurricane lamps being used historically for signaling, since people in the distance could easily detect a red or green light from a hurricane lantern.
Although hurricane lamps are meant to be safer in drafts, they do pose a fire risk, especially in the case of kerosene or oil lamps. If the wick is turned up too high, the air inside the chimney may become quite hot, causing the chimney to explode. The shock of the explosion can cause the bottom part of the lamp to fracture as well, spilling oil which can rapidly catch fire. Explosions are also a potential risk with a candle-lit hurricane lamp.
As a general rule, hurricane lamps should never be left unattended, and the wicks of the candles and oil lamps used should be regularly trimmed. In addition to reducing the risk of fire, trimming increases efficiency, reducing the amount of soot produced by the lantern while it is in operation. People should also be aware that the glass chimney can be very hot with extended use, and it is not advisable to touch the chimney while the lamp is in use.