Best method for communication of severe weather

Sean Poling

Im searching for everyones preferred method of communicating severe weather when in a town they've never been in.

Since chasing takes us to different cities, counties and states all over the country, our means of letting people know of approaching severe weather is extremely important and a great way to justify what we do for others safety.

Im looking for input so I can properly "dress" my car, as well as advance my public service capabilities.
 
Im searching for everyones preferred method of communicating severe weather when in a town they've never been in.

Since chasing takes us to different cities, counties and states all over the country, our means of letting people know of approaching severe weather is extremely important and a great way to justify what we do for others safety.

Im looking for input so I can properly "dress" my car, as well as advance my public service capabilities.
I think what you are aking is: 'what modes are there?'
Yes, the SpotterNetwork and HAM's are on the top of the list, there is also the 911 use of you cell phone when you are in somebody elses back yard,
If you are looking to help warn others while in what ever location you are, I would have to say that it would have to be the HAM radio and the cellphone/911 call. Other than that, I don't know if spotters are using CB's at all any more - especially if they already have a HAM radio.
;)
 
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Jun 9, 2005
336
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West,Tx
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I rely solely on HAM radio. We are linked directly to the NWS so they can get timely info from us as to what they see on radar, basically being there eyes in the storm. This also helps them with warning the public. Another tool that I think is helping out alot is using a live chase cam, which a lot of news channels are starting to use by teaming up with chasers to show a live feed when severe weather is in a specific area.
 
Everyone will have a personal preference. Mine are in order and with a reason...

- SpotterNetwork (requires no prior knowledge and it will give you the local NWS phone number if there is one, but requires Internet access)

- local NWS phone # if I have one

- 911

- ham radio

The only reason ham radio is last is because not every area has a skywarn group, not every area is tied into the NWS, and not every area uses the same frequency. Since I have no way of knowing what frequency to be on for the particular area I am in, it becomes nearly useless if I venture out of my known areas (eg: chasing).

Before I was a "chaser", and worked primarily with a local county SKYWARN group, HAM radio was my #1 choice.

The point here is you use what is available. No single solution will always work the best.

For "outfitting a car" for storm chasing in unknown territories, my priorities for purchasing communication gear would be the following. I would not buy the one below unless I had the one above.

- Cell phone
- Cell phone amp and external antenna
- laptop cell phone card for internet
- ham radio
 
Jun 9, 2005
336
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0
49
West,Tx
Visit site
Everyone will have a personal preference. Mine are in order and with a reason...

- SpotterNetwork (requires no prior knowledge and it will give you the local NWS phone number if there is one, but requires Internet access)

- local NWS phone # if I have one

- 911

- ham radio

The only reason ham radio is last is because not every area has a skywarn group, not every area is tied into the NWS, and not every area uses the same frequency. Since I have no way of knowing what frequency to be on for the particular area I am in, it becomes nearly useless if I venture out of my known areas (eg: chasing).

Before I was a "chaser", and worked primarily with a local county SKYWARN group, HAM radio was my #1 choice.

The point here is you use what is available. No single solution will always work the best.

For "outfitting a car" for storm chasing in unknown territories, my priorities for purchasing communication gear would be the following. I would not buy the one below unless I had the one above.

- Cell phone
- Cell phone amp and external antenna
- laptop cell phone card for internet
- ham radio
For most areas you can find a Skywarn repeater listing on the internet, if there is such a thing in the area you are chasing. For instance, here is a Skywarn repeater listing for the N./N. Central TX area, but the only problem is it doesn't show the tones for the repeaters. Most HAM radios have tone encode/decode so you can still find it and connect to the repeater.

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/repeat.html
 
For most areas you can find a Skywarn repeater listing on the internet, if there is such a thing in the area you are chasing. For instance, here is a Skywarn repeater listing for the N./N. Central TX area, but the only problem is it doesn't show the tones for the repeaters. Most HAM radios have tone encode/decode so you can still find it and connect to the repeater.

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd/repeat.html
That's my point. I have to know where I'm going to be, remember to look it up, research the repeater tones/etc for an area of potentially 50 counties. Way more work than I care to put into it for a single day of chasing. Especially when I can use another communication method without thinking. Don't get me wrong..when it works...it's awesome. Ham radio is where I "grew up" in severe weather. It's just us ham's don't make it very easy to work with if you intend to be mobile over a large area.
 
As an added minor point, I use a cell for tethering to my laptop - and I also have a disposable cell phone too. This way, I don't have to disconnect my internet connection and I can still make a phone call. My disposable phone generally get better reception anyway.

My next move is to get a HAM radio.
The Emergency Mgr wants me to get my license - so now it is a must...
eSpotter program - you see.
 

Benjamin Rock

well, i prefer HAM radio, however i belive that the question was not types or methods, but preferences used. i would say HAM,cell,internet. However, I must agree that if you are in an unknown area, unless you have time to look up the used freqs for the HAM radio, its useless. So, 911 is my method. Now I have chased for 16 years across the plains and various areas and I always try to have the freqs for the area i will be in or near, just in case. But i have full interent access from the car so I can look up phone numbers or freqs while driving. Dont worry, I have a navigator who handles the computer while i drive... Just for clarification....
 
Apr 8, 2005
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Winnipeg, MB
1. Cell phone for calls to weather office (EC in Canada, NWS in U.S.). For U.S. chasing I use a GR3 placefile with the NWS phone numbers in it.

2. Ham Radio - I have a GR3 placefile for my local repeaters; I've seen similar ones for repeaters around OK and TX too. Makes searching for repeaters a no-brainer.

3. CB. Yes, I still find this useful. I've often heard useful information from truckers on there and was able to help some get around a storm or two.

4. FRS/GMRS . I haven't found this all that useful for chasing due to the poor range/lack of repeaters most of the time, however I am equipped since I use the radios for family purposes too.
 

Joey Ketcham

My prefered methods are as follows:

1). Cell phone - as others mentioned, I can call the NWS directly to provide them reports.

2). SpotterNetwork - Has proven to be very successful, and a few times have had someone at a NWS call me for information.

3). Ham Radio - I put this last for the same reasons Tyler mentioned. It is very useful in talking with other chasers and even some EM's who monitors the .55 simplex.
 

Joe Dorn

EF2
Feb 27, 2005
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Belton, Texas
I am a very avid amateur radio supporter, as trustee for a wide area repeater in Central Texas, for spotter reports BUT...

We have integrated the Spotter Network into our operation with great success... Problem: depends on the cell phone network...

We are integrating Streaming Video into the network, so far with great anticipation... Problem: depends on the cell phone network...

The cell network is usually the first system to go down during a disaster or rapidly becomes overloaded.

With that being said, we have had spotters lose radio contact and we head for the cell phone to make sure they are not getting an angel's view of the system...

In my opinion CB radio is also an underrated tool for chasers, especially when running the Interstates.

I have to make several multi-state trips each year and quite often the only radios turned on are the CB, APRS tracker and XM. CB has kept us better informed of road conditions than any other source and the GPS driven laptop lets us find an alternate route.

Tyler, et al...

Several of us assisting in creating a GRLx place file that includes most of the repeaters in prime chasing territory; all you have to do is mouse over to get the frequency and Pl tone. It is on Jeff Synder's site at:

http://grlevel3.tornadocentral.com/repeaters.txt

The repeater directories are not very useful since you have to be familiar with the territory to find one you are looking for. Our repeater is located near Eddy, Texas... Know where that is?

Bottom line...
There are several great tools available, I would not leave any of them out of my tool box...
 
#1 - Spotter Network

#2 - Cell Phone

Spotter Network has been a very useful tool for me. I never got into ham radio when I started chasing. I find Spotter Network an easy application to notify the media and NWS of what is going on out in the field. This is the easiest and quickest way to send storm information to a mass audience for me. If I have no internet coverage, I make sure and call into a local station I chase for here in Wichita. They do a good job of passing that over to the NWS.
 

Jason Foster

A few have mentioned here...but never really did it myself: but what about dialing 911. Is that really constructive, or does it delay the warning process? I just usually did the ham/skywarn or direct to NWS call.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
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Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
Very rarely will your report get to NWS in a timely matter, NEVER as fast as SN or ham or direct. During a disaster, 911 operators' role is to take calls from people with emergencies and send the appropriate units to help out. Relaying weather info is WAY down the priority list.
 
Mar 3, 2004
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myspace.com
We intercept, then get on phone with local NWS office & tell them whats going on especially with development or meso's. During the F-3 in St. Mary's MO. I was helped into position on Illinois side because it was at night and we had no data in the field. We have since got the laptop with our card & whatnot so we can stay safe & be much more effective. So having a good cell like the Razor is essential, IMO the best signal in severe weather
 

Shane Adams

One quick comment....I've read more than a few times that the perceived drawback of reporting via cell phone is that it ties up lines...if not to report severe weather, exactly what purpose are we trying to keep these lines freed up to serve?