Safety tips

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
649
662
21
55
Menominee, MI
Nobody wants to die while chasing. I’m starting this thread for tips on chasing safely. Everyone knows not to drive like an ***hole or not to stare at your phone while chasing. I’m looking for a couple of tips that may fly under the weather or a new twist on an old problem. I have a couple of my own to share. Get to your target area early. Most people like to sleep in and so do I, but maybe set an alarm early just to look and see what the day is looking like. You can always go back to sleep after checking and if you realize you’ve got a bigger move to make than you thought, you can get moving before it’s too late. Even if you check the SPC while unloading beer from the night before you can save yourself some headaches.
Everybody is going to be late to the party at some point while chasing. Getting up and heading to your target area early will help curb the impulse of trying to shave off minutes on your drive while towers are going up in the distance. A calm drive to start the day might help you stay calm and focused as the day rolls on too.
I can’t preach enough about having at least one chase partner with you. I’ve done it solo too and having someone else navigating and keeping up on storm development is a life saver. You can do it alone, but even having an extra set of eyes coming up to unmarked or blind intersections could save your life. It’s really easy to get distracted from your driving and I’ll always take help with all of the other chores.
Anybody with any thoughts heading into chase season?
 
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Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
1,870
1,798
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
The biggest close calls now days involve traffic. I have some rules our chase team always tries to follow.

1: Limit nighttime travel as much as possible.
2: Pull off the road as far as possible when stopping and never park in travel lanes.
3: Dust storms are deadly and form much quicker than you think.
4: When a line of cars approach you in the opposite lane, move over slightly to the right so any oncoming passers can see you.
5: Avoid the massive traffic jams. This will eventually, unfortunately, take out a lot of private vehicles / chasers, it's come close several times.
6: No dirt roads in critical situations.
7: Stop at all blind intersections, even if you have the right of way.
8: Use high efficiency headlamps.
9: Use daytime running lights.
10: Check your vehicle every morning, including tires, oil, headlamps, belts, etc.
11: Make sure your spare is in working order.
12: Carry at least two cans of sensor-safe tire inflator / sealer and a tow strap.
13: Check the state / county road conditions and closures on big days.
14: Use radio communications when traveling in a group.
15: Limit distractions by placing phones, computers, etc., so they do not limit / distract vision.
 

Randy Jennings

Supporter
May 18, 2013
526
483
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1) New tires - having lots of tread makes a big difference and reduces the chances of hydroplaning

2) Don't over correct for things in the road unless it is a person. Far more people get hurt trying to miss an animal than by hitting it. If you can safely miss it great, but don't roll your vehicle trying to miss Bambi.
 
Jul 1, 2014
37
53
11
Nobody wants to die while chasing. I’m starting this thread for tips on chasing safely. Everyone knows not to drive like an ***hole or not to stare at your phone while chasing. I’m looking for a couple of tips that may fly under the weather or a new twist on an old problem. I have a couple of my own to share. Get to your target area early. Most people like to sleep in and so do I, but maybe set an alarm early just to look and see what the day is looking like. You can always go back to sleep after checking and if you realize you’ve got a bigger move to make than you thought, you can get moving before it’s too late. Even if you check the SPC while unloading beer from the night before you can save yourself some headaches.
Everybody is going to be late to the party at some point while chasing. Getting up and heading to your target area early will help curb the impulse of trying to shave off minutes on your drive while towers are going up in the distance. A calm drive to start the day might help you stay calm and focused as the day rolls on too.
I can’t preach enough about having at least one chase partner with you. I’ve done it solo too and having someone else navigating and keeping up on storm development is a life saver. You can do it alone, but even having an extra set of eyes coming up to unmarked or blind intersections could save your life. It’s really easy to get distracted from your driving and I’ll always take help with all of the other chores.
Anybody with any thoughts heading into chase season?
Safety tip #1: Do not let Todd Lemery drive. Like ever. I’m sure everyone has their own “Cousin Eddy” to deal with. I’m better off just giving him a box of crayons and coloring book for the trip. Safety tip #2: Keep a bag of lollipops in the vehicle to give them each time they give advice.
 
Oct 31, 2013
438
352
21
Eastern TX Panhandle
I'm a big stickler on knowing where you are and where you need to go while actively chasing. If I'm on a storm and can't have access to an escape route (preferably south and east) then I stay way back, or find another storm in a better road network. Here are a few of my safety tips as I chase by myself most of the time unless Warren and the crew are in town.

*Don't put 100% trust in radar. Use and trust your own eyes to make decisions.
*Speaking for myself, I DO NOT CHASE AT NIGHT!
*A lot of Warren's tips above include my thoughts as well since I chase with him every year.
*Let it be known that I don't speed very much unless my life is in danger, but...I'd rather have to hurry to get to a tornado, than to hurry to get out of the way of one. If I have to get out of the way of one, I made poor decisions which should not have happened to begin with.
*NEVER put 100% trust in your GPS. These fail, and sometimes they show a road that does not exist. In the event of a tornadic supercell, an escape route might come to a dead end, or it may not exist at all. ALWAYS try to have more than one escape route. If more than one isn't available, take in the storm from a few more miles away.
*Warren and the team's philosophy is this...If we can chase a secondary target on a BIG DAY, we will. This drastically reduces the danger of other distracted drivers, it's less stress for the team/more enjoyable, and it's more rewarding to get a nice storm/tornado in a less favorable area than the main show.
*We never core punch. Not only do we not want broken windshields, we also don't want to drive out of a rain core with a strong tornado nearby.
*Never ever park on the side of the road with a line of chasers, especially in a tornadic situation. When it's time to go, everybody will be pulling onto the road, and traffic will be slow. Put a tornado into this equation, and it could spell disaster. I would rather be 4-6 miles away with no traffic around, than to be under the meso with tons of road clogging chasers trying to escape a developing tornado.
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
Probably a bit overlooked, even among the ham operators here, but if at all possible, preprogram your SKYWARN repeaters. I prefer to run commercial (namely public safety and business) radios for this reason. I have one for UHF, one for VHF, and each has a zone for each CWA, and frequencies are labeled by county (or in a few cases city if I'm familiar with the area). I also keep a spare radio scanning commonly used simplex frequencies, and also have my APRS beacon running. On more than one occasion, I've been able to let a net controller know that my beacon is running, and that helps them stay aware of my location. I totally understand if you don't want to run multiple radios, so if you're limited to a single dual band radio, spend some time during the off season setting up code plugs. When you know you're chasing a certain area, upload that codeplug and be ready to go. Make sure you keep the common simplex frequencies in each code plug.

Probably a relic from my days in the Army, but even with all the radio chatter going on (I also have a scanner listening to VFDs and EMs as they spot as well), I have no issue understanding when my callsign is called out. One of the reasons I got my vanity call (and kept it as a region 4 call) was to make it distinct. While keeping a region 4 call is a nod to my roots in the hobby, it also stands out with all the region 5 and 0 calls out this way. My original call was also more difficult to understand without doing it phonetically every time. But I do regularly check in on nets multiple days a week in order to stay in practice with operating on a controlled net. Regardless of voice mode, weekly controlled nets are great practice for how things will go during a real situation.
 
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Michael Towers

Supporter
Jun 28, 2007
314
141
11
Machesney Park, IL
General rules I follow:

Don’t chase in heavily populated areas.

Don’t let the frustrations of a tough day lead you to take risks you otherwise wouldn’t in order to salvage some type of success.

Don’t believe that following a LEO guarantees safe passage or a safe escape route.

Respect floodwaters, they can be deadly. Don’t risk driving through them and be aware that possible escape routes can be cut off by floodwaters.

Basically all of the above apply to what is probably my worst executed chase ever. May 22, 2011 and the only rule I followed was the first as I bailed on the cell as it approached Joplin. However doing so led me to violating the next rule. I had no idea how bad things were in Joplin, all I knew was that it appeared I missed a major event there and tornado reports were popping up across the broader area and I was 12 hours into a chase with nothing to show for it. I subsequently punched a core thinking I had enough lead on the circulation on the other side only to emerge facing an impressive rain-wrapped cone which luckily tracked across the road about ¼ of a mile ahead of me. The passing of that cell and subsequent cells resulted in rising water all around my location and numerous routes out were blocked. Since I had no desire to spend a night in my vehicle in the creepy backwoods I learned the next rule as a passing county sheriff caught my attention and I figured he was my ticket to freedom. That led to breaking the next rule as I followed him and plowed through a surging flash flood and barely made it out the other side. I do believe if I had been in my previous chase vehicle (Camry) instead of my Highlander I would have been swept away.

A few more I generally follow but in the heat of things have violated so I should add that as a rule don’t let the heat of things let you violate safety rules but sometimes that’s easier said than done::

Don’t put yourself in a position where your life depends on your vehicle not breaking down, even reliable vehicles can stall or not start.

Respect lightning, no shot or experience is worth your life.

Keep your head on a swivel, not only when observing a storm but also when navigating the chaser filled roads. I’ve seen a lot of crazy, dangerous stunts and never assume traffic will behave as it should.