Chaser Safety and Responsibility suggestions

Dr Doswell gave the keynote speech at the Denver convention on chaser safety and responsibility. In a humerous but very serious fashion, he talked about dangerous chaser practices by new and veteran chasers along with your "average Joe" out to see the tornado. Dr Doswell also talked about his fears should there be a serious accident (ie lady with baby walking across street is killed by speeding chasers) He stated that any bad behavior becomes a reflection upon all of us.

Link to Dr. Doswell's often cited and quoted paper on safety
http://www.cimms.ou.edu/~doswell/Chasing2.html

Dr. Doswell asked that there be some discussion on how chaser safety can be nurtured and improved.


My thoughts: I don't think there is a way to enforce chaser safety through rules, membership in an association or sanctions. All chasers should strive to set an example of good chaser behavior. This should also be emphazied among tour groups since some participants are likely to be future chasers. When dangerous behavior is observed, I would suggest that the offending individual be privately e-mailed or contacted. As a last resort, a description of the situation, video clips or stills can be posted to ones website or a public forum. Nobody is perfect. I certainly would not be angry if someone contacted me about something I did.

Bill Hark
 
What are your thoughts on "Yahoos" as, they call them, and identifying them. What is a good way to avoid and/or stop them?
 
Yahoos cannot be avoided or likely stopped. Simply do your best to work around them as chasing continues to be an unrestricted hobby. The only thing you can do is NOT be a yahoo YOURSELF.

You can identify a yahoo as a self-proclaimed chaser with little regard to safety, respect, or the rule of law. Though every chaser from time to time makes mistakes or an irrational decision, yahoos do it as a way of chasing, which is reckless and dangerous.
 
When it comes down to missing the tornado or not, out in the middle of BFE, we're all yahoos.
 
Hey Bill I was wondering how you got all the tornados in Virginia...You yahoo you...lol

Well without any question I think everyone who chases has crossed the Yahoo status one or twice and sometimes you forget about it when your on a tornado or big storm. Maybe I am wrong but I have crossed that line before and many I have seen chasing have done the same thing.

But for the most part I keep a level head and stay focused as many chasers out there do.
 
I have to agree what Jeff says...........and also have to side with Shane too. We are ALL guilty of it at some point or another. If one of the biggest names in storm research can fess up to it, everyone should be able to and not feel like they are the ONLY one. You're NOT.
 
When I was younger I didn't really put safety as number 1. Pretty bad on my part. All I usually had was my 2 meter radio, laptop, and my camera. But this year, I chose to be different.

I have to say my change came pretty quick. Strange part of what caused me to changed didn't really effect me directly. It was when Katrina hit the coast, I watched CNN two straight months during my off time. I saw families watch friends and family die because they didn't have any way to get them medical aid. I am willing to admit, I get very nervous around anything medical. But this year, I chose that I would learn first aid and cpr. And now I am certified by the American Red Cross in First Aid and Adult CPR/AED. While my CPR will expire in September, I plan to go back to renew and get the child's CPR/AED so I have that knowlege.

While I am preping my new vehicle (2001 ford windstar) this year before the storm season several friends have shown interest as well. If they become permanent chasers with me, I may require them as well to become certified. Most that I explain why I feel that way, they understand and most show that they would be willing to do so.

I guess the point to all this is maybe once before I was just a yahoo. And getting a little older, I started to wake up I guess you can say and realize that this is no longer a game or just for fun. These storms are serious and they do hurt and injure people. Even though I never before wanted to see anyone hurt I guess I didn't realize myself I could be put in that situation until now.

I'll be quiet now :) - Grady
 
Originally posted by Eric Treece
I have to agree what Jeff says...........and also have to side with Shane too. We are ALL guilty of it at some point or another. If one of the biggest names in storm research can fess up to it, everyone should be able to and not feel like they are the ONLY one. You're NOT.

I totally agree with this one....lord knows I've made my share of bone-headed decisions in the past. Sometimes our adrenaline gets the best of us while we're out on the road. The most important thing to always remember is never make the same mistakes twice. Learn from it the first time and move on.
 
I was trying to think of a solution to this problem on the way back from the conference. The problem is that we do not like rules or have the ability to enforce good storm chasing conduct by everyone. As stated this means that eventually a situation will arise where storm chasing will come into danger either from an accident from ‘responsible’ chasers or ‘reckless’ chasers. The only idea I had that could perhaps counter act this was perhaps make a “storm chasing preservation associationâ€. The goals of such an organization would be to promote a good image of chasers, and develop funding for legal services to counter act legislation against storm chasing ‘freedoms’. Although I haven’t busted out a calculator to figure out how much this would cost from optional ‘association dues’ this is at least my idea. However, to promote a good image of chasers perhaps this organization could arrange meetings between ‘responsible’ chasers with local/state/federal government officials. This would perhaps add a buffer to any legislation backlash that could arrive from such an inevitable accident. Although as chasers I think we are a mixed bag politically maybe the ACLU would support us in keeping storm chasing liberty alive! Perhaps this could help with the legal service funding for such a group. Well that’s my idea I’ll let you guys hash it out now.
 
As I understand it, most of the certified 'Yahoo' types tend to be local yokkels who charge out when the the local radar shows something close by. I've seen videos of storms near OKC and other midwest cities that show dozens of clearly clueless people out for a casual 'storm chase.' For the most part, these people have never heard of ST or C. Doswell. Further, they would probably tell anyone who suggests: "Maybe you shouldn't do that" to take a flying leap. Doswell's slightly pedantic (does he think he's the only one to have thought about this?) lecture was, IMO, delivered to the wrong crowd.

I suspect the first "Storm Chasers Killed!" headline will revolve around some Bubba who loaded his family in the car and drove headlong into "the suck zone."

While there's always room for mistakes, most people on ST have some idea what they are doing, and have a personal safety threshold that they try not to exceed. If a ST member does die in a storm, I'll put my money on a random lightning bolt as the instrument of destruction.

-Greg
 
I suspect the first "Storm Chasers Killed!" headline will revolve around some Bubba who loaded his family in the car and drove headlong into "the suck zone."

If a ST member does die in a storm, I'll put my money on a random lightning bolt as the instrument of destruction.

I put my money on lightning as well. I'm shocked, no pun intended, it hasn't happened yet and I bet it will before too long.
 
I bet it's lightning too. It's amazing no one has been killed by a strike yet, as many chasers that have been struck.
 
Just be an example for others in how you chase. Taking others under your wing like Kurt Hulst has done is also a good way to grandfather in responsible chasers. I don't think that getting close to a tornado is necessairly reckless though, it's just all varying degrees of choices. I was a little bit astounded on all the tripods and cars pulled over on the interstate and off-ramp on June 7th. But as others have already pointed out, chasers are rather independent souls. I also agree the majority of the problem seems to be locals rather than experienced chasers, even though it's the chaser image that is reflected by such behavior. It's pretty reasonable to assume that an incident, even if it was a local 'yahoo', would most likely reflect bad on the chase community. But, not to forget that chasers do lots of positive things such as: call in reports, meteorological/damage studies, patronize middle of nowhere joints & raise money for chairty (Storms of DVD's, Hurricane DVD's).


Scott Olson
 
Originally posted by Scott Olson
Just be an example for others in how you chase

This is a good starting point for everyone to try and keep in mind regardless of how close one likes to get, how agressive they are to get renumeration quality video, or whatever other impulse may lead otherwise responible chasers to 'step over the line' (whatever that line is).

Simply try to stress safety a little more. I think this is one area where it is GOOD to be a hypocrite - so everyone has pulled a bonehead move in the field in the past - that dosen't mean that you should abandon keeping safety as a first priority and letting others know that.

Cultures are maliable - if we make safety and courtesy a priority it will be infectious to a degree on new chasers (and counter the 'screamo' extreme video the media loves to show). And no I do not advocate directly trying to change anyone's established chase style - that is not the point of this post.
 
My observation and experience is that the situation calling for the greatest care is after you have ended the chase. It is usually after dark; you're sometimes still in proximity to severe or even tornadic storms; you're tired; and the adrenaline of the chase has worn away.

A chaser was nearly skewered a few years ago -- I think in Hoisington, KS. He had pulled into town for gas after dark when the conditions deteriorated into the signs of a nearby tornado. He pulled up next to a sturdy concrete wall and lay flat in his SUV. The town was badly hit but the wall survived as a partial windbreak. Nonetheless lumber speared through over his head... a very, very close call.

If there's one lesson I've tried to take to heart from this story and a few experiences of my own, it's that your (hopefully!) superior knowledge and experience with severe storms gives you an added responsibility toward yourself and the public. When done chasing or when not chasing, you don't stop watching and acting the same as you would when you're chasing. And you try to return some of that to the public when you can.
 
Originally posted by Patrick Kerrin+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Patrick Kerrin)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Scott Olson
Just be an example for others in how you chase

This is a good starting point for everyone to try and keep in mind regardless of how close one likes to get, how agressive they are to get renumeration quality video, or whatever other impulse may lead otherwise responible chasers to 'step over the line' (whatever that line is).

[/b]

I often wonder if the public's taste for storm stills/footage, and therefore the market for it, is beginning to become a bit saturated. While I'm meticulously trying not to tar every "professional" storm photographer with the same brush, money often seems to be the driving force behind the blind recklessness/bravado of a select few.

Not unlike professional sports, the sport of storm chasing we all know and love sometimes becomes tainted when perceived business opportunities, real or imagined, are the only focal point. The "Tornado Attack" venture comes to mind when I think in this context. A well-financed yahoo, yes. But in my mind, a yahoo nonetheless. All for the money, and forget about the science, or the thrill of the hunt.

As terrifying and destructive as these storms may be, I believe the greatest chance for deaths among chasers is on the road, with lightning placing a close second.

It's the irresponsibility of a tiny minority that terrifies me more than the storms.
 
Originally posted by David Wolfson
My observation and experience is that the situation calling for the greatest care is after you have ended the chase. It is usually after dark; you're sometimes still in proximity to severe or even tornadic storms; you're tired; and the adrenaline of the chase has worn away.


Absolutely. I got into damaging hail (which I usually try to avoid) heading back into LBB on 25 May 1996 after a difficult chase in the haboob between Lamasa and Seminole. Went casually into small hail just S of LBB and then the big stones started. Got out before it got too bad but lost the windshield and some good dents to the roof of the rental (saw some softball sized holes in cars in S LBB later on).

All because I had let my guard down after the chase in the dark and was thinking about getting up early for the drive back to DFW in time for my flight home.
 
Distracted driving and/or speed get my vote for the cause of the first chase tragedy (multiple casualties, big news coverage). The automobile is going to get us long before the storm does.

I hate to admit it but one of the reasons I strongly believe this is that I have had two close calls, almost driving off the interstate or head-on into oncoming traffic due to staring at a ThreatNet radar loop. It doesn't take much for this to happen, just a quick glance that lingers one second too long. Scary enough that I don't do it anymore. So, my tip is to leave all laptop tasks to a passenger or always STOP to look at the screen.

Modern chaser convergence is a ticking time bomb. Many, many risk factors coming together in a concentrated area time and time again: distracted drivers, distracted pedestrians/photographers, significant speed differences (fast and slow moving traffic), u-turns, slippery roads, vehicles packed with equipment, etc.

Unfortunately I believe it is not a matter of if, but when. I just do not want to be one of the ones involved when it happens. It is a somber thought that will change the way I chase.
 
Hey Bill I was wondering how you got all the tornados in Virginia...You yahoo you...lol

Well without any question I think everyone who chases has crossed the Yahoo status one or twice
Bill Coyle

I think I was well behaved on that Virginia tornado, but I have done my share of dumb things that would certainly be described as "yahoo." I try my best to adhere to commonly recognized standards of safety for chasing (and driving in general.) That's all any of us can do. When I encounter "bad behavior," I also think to myself, "Do I do that too?"

We are also members of many different groups including "storm chasers." The smaller the group is relative to the general population, the more important it is to act as a representative of that group. Storm chasers are a very small but highly visible group. Therefore it is easy for the general population to associate all storm chasers with the behavior (good or bad) of a few individuals. One may ask,"Why do I have to consider other chasers? I am an individual." In addition to be right or moral, there are very practical reasons to acting appropriately: Over the years, I have had many friendly encounters with locals including law enforcement, farmers, librarians etc. People have been very helpful including warnings about construction, great restaurants, internet access, directions etc. One farmer even gave me shelter when I was trapped between a road that ended (map error) and an approaching tornado-warned storm and massive hail core. These folks already had a good impression of storm chasers. Imagine a future after multiple serious incidents. Government may not regulate chasing but I would hate to be ignored, blown off or even given the wrong info by locals who see chasers as a menace or simply jerks who hope for death and destruction. Finally, I think chasers should be proactive whether it is calling in severe weather, donating images for spotter training, speaking at local schools about severe weather awareness or just taking a few minutes to discuss the weather situation with a scared resident.

Bill Hark
 
I applaud Bill for raising the issue. Others have mentioned that we talked about this before without success. The last I remember was when we proposed an "association" that might produce chaser safety materials and email press releases to tell newspapers, TV stations, and other media outlets about the benefits chasers bring to spotting, spotter training, and even severe weather research.

Yet even something as benign as a text-producing PR webpage drew howling protests by those who imagine that what happens to chasers in other places does not affect them. But it will affect all of us when Kansas passes some law restricting recreational vehicle use around severe storms. It might only take one high-profile accident (how about a chaser runs down a kid while racing through a small town?) and one ambitious young legislator who anticipates an easy highlight on his next campaign poster. You think if we kill somebody that these towns won't do anything about it? Do you think they’ll say, “Oh let them be—chasers have very independent spirits?â€￾ Is that what we expect? To me, having a legislature move against us seems almost inevitable. Most of us aren't even FROM the states we chase in. I personally have zero political clout in Harper County, Kansas. Do you?

I would welcome an effort in the direction we discussed before, something to promote IDEAS for how new chasers might stay safe and represent the hobby well. That's what Stormtrack used to do. It had a chasing ETHIC that the editors were not afraid to promote. It stood for something. As a chaser starting out, I was glad to read what others thought about various topics. I think people new to the hobby would still appreciate suggestions like these. They might see the benefit in adopting ideas that other experienced chasers agree are worthwhile.

I hope those who checked out the other threads will indulge what is essentially a repeat of what I've said for several years now, but my ideas haven't changed.
 
I understand the concerns of some of you, but the bottom line is the people who pose a threat to our "image" are idiots. You can lead a horse to water...

There's simply no way to police storm chasing. Chasers can't predict where tornadic storms will be half the time, the authorities will have no clue most of the time. I find it hard to believe a police officer will spend time at a roadblock checking cars while his town is being threatened by a tornado. And if you do get checked, it's not against the law to own a vidcam, or a map, or a laptop. It will take more than circumstancial evidence to win a court case, otherwise attorneys will eat these "cases" alive.

I know this all sounds reactionary on my part, but chasers can't spend their time worrying about things they can't prevent. I think most all true chasers (who chase because they love it) are decent drivers. We can't control what locals do in and around their own communities....or can we?

If you're going to police storm chasing, why not enforce it locally? Keep the locals off the streets and in their homes, and leave the chasers alone. As healthy and legitimate as the "being safe" argument is, I will be as equally passionate about the debate over chasers' worth to the community. We save lives every year, by simply being there. People see chasers rolling through town and they at least know something's up. They might not take any action to protect themselves (the horse to water thing again), but at least they have a choice. You can't tell me a boatload of chasers doesn't alert citizens to the fact a bad storm is nearbye, whether their presence is seen as an annoyance or not.

Police, FDs, 90% of all spotters - they don't know jack. When a town is threatened by severe weather, chasers are the authority. People look to us for answers, and this includes authorities. It's an inescapable fact. The issue is being a good driver. That's all it is folks, DRIVING.

Don't be a moron behind the wheel. We're all gonna speed, cut corners, roll stop signs and red lights - we ALL ARE. But there's a line between "hey we're breaking the law" and "hey, we're endangering ourselves and everyone around us." People with half a brain know the difference and respect that difference. Everyone else are simply morons, and you can't cure stupidity.
 
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