Does a chaser have a responsibility to warn?

Does a chaser have a responsibility to report severe weather?

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Does a chaser have a responsibility to report severe weather? Is it a mandatory part of what we do? What's your opinion? Though this has been brought up on other lists, it will be worth seeing the responses in context with the poll.

Those who know me well know that I am a firm believer that chasers have a responsibility to warn whenever the situation presents itself that their actions may save lives.

The opportunity isn't always there, understandably. However, if faced with an oncoming tornado that is approaching a small subdivision or lone farmhouse, if the time is there to do so, I would do all I can to ensure the occupant's safety in the most practical way at the situation.

On a more "spotter" type level, I also feel it is the responsibility of a chaser to call in severe weather reports to the appropriate agency. Even today, there have been some severe thunderstorms whose characteristics have not by Doppler Radar been characterized as severe which have developed strong tornadoes, and have been missed by the National Weather Service. Some storms are "spotterless". One call by a knowledgable chaser can save lives.

Of course there will always be chasers who feel they're just there "to watch". That's their choice of course. IMO, I feel I would be doing an unforgivable act if I didn't warn...and would hold myself responsible in the event of the worst if I failed to even try.

Jeffrey Miller
warning others

I think any human being has an obligation to warn others of danger. Chasers in particular have unique qualifications and expertise that can save lives in situations where no spotters are present, or spotters are too scattered or in the wrong place. We attend Skywarn training, use the amateur airwaves, and drive public roads without paying significant taxes in the states we chase when away from home. More than that, it's the right thing to do.

Amos Magliocco
Pretty much what I feel has already been posted. I would be curious to hear the reasoning behind the no votes.

Chris Sokol/KD5ILI
Mobile Weather Concepts
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I agree with the previous posts. It isnt about being a chaser with a responability to warn. Its about being a human trying to save another humans life when given the opportunity. period.

its good to know there are others who feel the same and take a responsibilty seriously even when having fun.
Yes a chaser does have the responsibility to warn of an oncoming severe weather event, in an isolated area as well in small town village, where the warning system is still manually operated, ie: I am sure in some small towns there is someone that still pushes the fire whistle button, to alert the local VFD to a call, also the NWR system is far better than it was 10 years ago as far as coverage is concerned, but there are still holes in the coverage, especially in hilly or mountainous locales. Here in the Platte Valley of west central Nebraska we are pretty well covered weather warning system wise, from my house I can hear 3 NWR transmitters easily, and more if conditions permit.
Interesting poll topic, I say ABSOLUTELY. Even if you have to cut off chase to stop at a pay phone to do so. You may be the only one on the storm, you may not, but when it comes to saving lives better safe than sorry.
Originally posted by mikegeukes

I still think there is a perception between the chasing world
and spotting world, that storm chasers are superior in
knowledge of severe weather to spotters. Thats why reports
of spotter and sheriff tornado reports do not get much respect
and credence to some chasers.

What Mike said is the truth. Most experienced chasers *are* superior in knowledge of severe weather when compared to spotters. A pretty logical assumption if one considers just how much severe weather a chaser sees when compared with a spotter who doesn't go looking far for these types of phenonena.

Concerning the poll ...I voted "no". The reason? I don't feel that any chaser has a true "responsibility" to report what he or she is seeing any more than a person who has witnessed a traffic accident *has* the responsibilty of reporting it or getting involved. Now, I do think one has *at times* a moral obligation to report what he or she is witnessing, especially if said storm is not being handled well by spotters or perhaps there is an absence of spotters entirely. I guess my main point is that if you decide you want to chase storms, you should not feel like you have to go out and get a cell phone or a ham radio/license because you have a "responsibility" to report. Besides, in many areas there are more than enough spotters ...many of which are ready to get a piece of the glory in being the first to report deadly weather. Of course, it would be nice if all chasers made it a habit to report what they are seeing, one would not want to assume that it was being reported (if you already had the ability to)...even after the fact for verification purposes.

This thread could be expanded to include a discussion about what the differences are between a spotter and a storm chaser. Some wear both hats! But there are distinct differences.

Gene brings up a good point about the distinct differences between spotters and chasers.

I often debate with myself on whether to chase or stay in my home territory and act as a spotter. I can honestly say that when I know severe weather is expected in my home area that I will not go out and chase. As one of the few "active" spotters in my area, I do feel a responsibility to my skywarn group as well as the EMD to stay 'home' and take care of business here. This is not a 'hero syndrome', it is just that I feel that my contributions can help keep my family and friends safer in the event that severe weather threatens. I know that I miss out on some major action in other regions because of this, but I would lose my peace of mind if something happened here while I was out chasing somewhere else.
I understand what the debate between chaser and spotter and the differences between. Good one to ponder. But honestly I could not live with myself knowing that if I had a chance to warn unknowing others of impending weather disaster and did not do it, be it as a chaser or a spotter. Hope that someone would do that for me if I was in the line of fire (and not aware of it, being at work will do that to ya). I could not imagine seeing a house or town leveled and I knew it was coming, but not giving the unsuspecting a chance to seek shelter.
reporting severe weather

I also voted yes that chasers should report severe weather especially tornadoes. I think it is a responsibility of every human being to help others. Storm chasers have an additional responsibility since we are often near storms and have the knowledge and experience to effectively report severe weather. That small dust whirl under a rotating wall cloud may be blown off by your average Joe. In addition, chasers do use government resources for chasing (ie bandwith of NWS sites for downloading weather data and forecasts). Until recently, many chasers would also visit NWS offices to look at data. We should "give back" when possible including storm warnings, after the event reports and photos/video.

Besides moral responsibility, there are benefits for chasers. By reporting severe weather, it puts chasers into better regard for NWS employees, law enforcement and other officials along with the general public.

Although I do recognize the need to report, I do find reporting to be difficult when I'm in a unfamiliar area and don't know who to call. Also, I don't want to be the 20th person to tie up the lines of communication by reporting the same tornado.

Bill Hark
Re: reporting severe weather

Originally posted by Bill Hark
Although I do recognize the need to report, I do find reporting to be difficult when I'm in a unfamiliar area and don't know who to call.
I think its a good idea for chasers, if they have the time and money, to try to attend Skywarn classes from the areas in which they will be doing a lot of chasing. Try to develop a rapport with the office before you're out in the field.
Also, I don't want to be the 20th person to tie up the lines of communication by reporting the same tornado.
I understand that feeling, but I think they'd rather have 20 reports of the same tornado than none. It's one of those things where you can't assume.
(Most) chasers are not law enforcement, doctors, paramedics or traffic police.
Because of the above, I think chasers should stay out of any "action" areas so to speak. If a tornado destroys a town, the chaser does not have an obligation to immediately drop his/her cameras and rush to help the injured. If anything they should steer clear of the whole area - they would be causing more trouble than good - being unqualified to offer help and perhaps blocking the paths of others who would do good.

My opinions above also apply to whether or not chasers should warn. Do they have a responsibility to warn? No. The only responsibility chasers have is to be safe and courteous, and not affect the life of members of the public while they chase.

I would say, however, that if a chaser witnesses severe weather and/or a tornado event, and believes that they are the only ones on the storm at the time - then the chaser should definitely think about reporting it - especially when it is in a metropolitan area.

My 0.02,

Karen Rhoden

I voted yes for many reasons stated above in other posts.

I'd also add that if a chaser is already out there, they got all the equipment, at least a cell phone, so why not help out and report severe weather events, especially tornadoes?

I think chasers should report any tornadoes if they see any because like Karen stated, they could be the only ones on the storm.

And Mike G. did state a good point... chasers' reports seem to be a little more credible than spotter reports, because many people think chasers are more knowledgeable in that area. Spotters are mostly just folks who are ham radio enthusiasts, who also have a weather interest. But, there are chasers who are spotters, as well, like myself.

So all in all, if you have a cell phone, and saw something real severe on your chase, be helpful and give a call to the NWS.

There's my 0.2 cents worth, Canadian :wink:

edited: the reason I said *call the nws* is because of the procedure up here in Ontario... I have no idea how it works down in the US... here in Ontario, spotters are given a 1800 # to call the weather office and speak with a meteorologist directly, or they can use ham radio to relay the report to the net controller who sends it to the weather office.
Does a chaser have a responsibility to report severe weather? Depends on the situation. Is it a mandatory part of what we do? No. What's your opinion? I feel that if there is a dangerous weather situation and it appears that there are no others to report it then I think it is a chasers duty to report it. Most tornadic chases I have been involved in recently, there is usually an abundance of other chasers or spotters. I don't feel it is necessary for me to add to the mayhem by calling it in when I know the tornado has already been reported. Concerning hail or high wind reporting, again I use the same logic as tornado reporting, if it looks like it is up to soley up to me to relay the information I will, otherwise I will continue to chase.

I did not vote yes or no because my answer is somewhere in the middle. I do think it is a good thing to fill out the storm reports page that many NWS websites have now. It is something you can do afterwards without having to make a call during the event, plus it is a good way for the NWS to contact you if they have any questions or request any photos/video.
I voted yes. The more people you can have as being observers on the ground the better. Radar/ dopplar is fantastic but it cannot (as far as I am aware) confirm 100% that a tornado is on the ground for example. Yes there is a chance that the network could be overloaded with false reports but I for oen would prefer a false report than non at all. Anyway, I do feel that a Storm Chaser knows enough to give valid info to the proper authorities surley.
Originally posted by Steve Peterson
Does a chaser have a responsibility to report severe weather? Depends on the situation. Is it a mandatory part of what we do? No. What's your opinion?
By no means is it a requirement of chasing. That being said, it is (IMHO) required by common decency. I was appalled when that lawyer in CA was shot a few months ago. All of the reporters were too stunned to help him, but they weren't too stunned to take all kinds of pictures. :evil:

This is a complex question. As far as I know, there is no legal responsibility for a chaser to call and report a tornado, but sometimes it is the ethical thing to do. Having been at some NWS offices during warning operations, it can be a double-edged sword. If every chaser who saw the May 3, 1999 F5 tornado called in the report to the NWS office, they would have been doing nothing but answering phones all day to hear reduntant information.

On the other hand, I'm familiar with two deadly severe weather events (a tornado and a flash flood) that happened within eye shot of two campuses with major meteororolgy programs yet no one bothered to call in a report to the local NWS office. Also, many chasers were around the Spencer, SD tornado in 1998 yet the local NWS office was still unaware of the tornado for awhile.

I just try to use my best judgement on the road. The only two times I've dropped everything to call in a report immediately were the October 2000 OKC tornado and the October 2001 Decatur, Texas tornado. In the former case, I knew it was a fast-developing situation, at night, with no warning yet in effect. In the latter case, a warning was in effect, but I was monitoring local radio and no one else seemed to be reporting the tornado. Also, I have called in "null" reports a few times, when I was in a great position to verify that there was no tornado. "Null" reports can be just as valuable to a warning forecaster as tornado reports!

While we're on the topic, I would stress that it is important to report what you know, NOT what you THINK you know. If all you can see is power flashes at night, report that fact, rather than yelling "TORNADO!" on the phone to the forecaster. Same goes if you see a dusty spin up along the gust front of the storm. If the low level circulation is partially rain wrapped, report that you can't see a tornado from your position, not that there is definitely no tornado with the storm.

Incidently, I have to disagree with the assertion that chasers never have any ethical responsibility to help out if they witness tornado damage where people might be hurt. If the authorities and emergency officials have reached the scene, then I agree chasers should stay completely out of the way. But, if I am the first/only person on the scene as a chaser, I would absolutely see if there was anything I could do to help out until the authorities arrive.
Poll question

I voted yes! I am also a spotter first and a chaser second when I'm encountering severe weather! As for entering a town that has JUST been hit by a tornado etc. OF COURSE I would render assistance! Just because your not a paramedic, police officer etc. doesn't mean that they wouldnt
Wanta helping hand to remove people trapped in rubble, etc. Plus if your CPR/First aid certified you may be able to help SAVE LIVES. Often times during MAJOR disasters local emergency crews are quickly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the emergency so I doubt they would turn away anyone with First aid/CPR training/anyone who is not a GAWKER but just want's to lend a helping hand.
A few of you had mentioned that if there are already a bunch of spotters and chasers watching the storm, that you do not call anything in due to the NWS callcenter being overloaded with calls. This may be a slightly different situation, but do any of you recall the story of Kitty Genovese (can't remember exactly how to spell the last name)? A few years back, she was a woman who was robbed and murdered in the courtyard of her apartment building in New York. During the whole murder, she was yelling at the top of her lungs, the murderer beat on her for about five minutes or so and ran off because of her screaming. Seeing that no police had shown up yet, he came back to finish the job. The woman was screaming for help the whole time. NOBODY called the police until after the murder was over and she was dead! When asked about it, many people in the appartments said that they heard the whole thing, but assumed that since the event was causing so much noise that someone must have called the cops already. Or that they just didn't want to get involved. The entire time there were cops on duty just minutes away. The womans life could have easily been saved with just one phone call. If you are not familiar with the case, I can try to find a link to an article about it.

Most teachers of ethics (as well as most laws in this country) agree that we do not HAVE to report a crime (in this case, deadly weather) or to rush to someones side to help them. I feel this is true. Noone should be forced to have to help, it shouldn't be a law. BUT, my personal ethics code would not allow me to just drive on by after the storm without trying to help people in need. There could be a dozen chasers following a tornado, each of them thinking that the others have already called it in... Then, when the tornado rolls over a town without warning, they all wonder why.

Many good points have been made in this discussion, both pro and con for reporting, and as far as I can tell, everyone is correct. Unfortunetly, this is an issue that is not black and white. The true answer (if there is a difinitive answer) falls someplace in the vast amount of grey area of the ethical argument.

I'd say, if you can hear on the radio or can call someone who can tell you if the report is on the TV already, then it's safe to say that people have already reported it. Then, if the storm makes a sudden change, report that. If as far as you can tell, there are no warnings or reports comming over the radio, weather radio, TV, whatever, it's a good bet that you could be one of the first people on it and you should be making that phone call!
I voted "yes", but my opinion is more complicated.

I believe that every chaser who is able should report severe weather that threatens lives. However, chasers who have no means of reporting shouldn't be chastised. I reported everythig I saw (threatening or not) like clockwork every year I had the means. Since I've no longer had a cell phone, I have stopped, simply because I have no way of reporting.

I don't think chasers who can't afford cell phones are any less-deserving to be out there.