Chaser Safety: Basic tips for the road
Part of being a smart, reliable chaser is to be safe. The most important piece of equipment to use to keep you safe is common sense. Use that tool in your weapons chest first and foremost.
But when in doubt, here are a few other points to think about to stay safe:
- For maximum visibility near the road, purchase and wear a traffic safety vest when outside your vehicle. These can be purchased at most home improvement stores for less than $10. Like many pieces of chaser equipment the more money you spend the more elaborate or “fancy” you can get. Even a basic, orange hunting vest will make you more visible along the side of the road when taking pictures or getting a better look. Something reflective will make you easier to pick out. As someone who wears reflective equipment on a lot of incidents, the reflection from a camera flash can and will ruin a picture so be careful when taking those amazing storm structure pictures! If you afraid of looking goofy, just don’t wear dark colors around storms as well — black is much harder to see when the skies darken compared to a white shirt.
- Of course try and park as far off the road as possible but at the very least make sure to dim your headlights or better yet turn them all the way off and run your 4-way flashers. This will keep from blinding oncoming traffic with your headlights. We can agree to disagree whether or not chasers should or should not be allowed to have “warning lights” mounted on their vehicle. There’s an argument to both sides of that discussion, maybe something we can tackle at a later date.
- Chase with someone. Trying to watch the road, radar, clouds, etc. is impossible for one person.
- Make sure someone knows what area you are chasing in. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to have an accident on some desolate county road and you being stranded there till Farmer John comes by to feed the calves and finds you wadded up in the ditch because of any number of reasons. So please make sure you let people know where you are and what you’re in. Editors Protip: Watch the movie 127 hours to see how smart it is to go somewhere desolate and not tell anyone.
- DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT drive over downed power lines. Most electric distribution systems will send out “test charges” when they have issues or faults on the line to try and diagnose issues or clear debris. Even if you think these lines are dead and don’t see arching, any second 1,000’s of volt of electricity may surge through that line. From someone in the emergency services field…the only time a line is dead is after I see a man or woman in a bucket truck go up and disconnect it AND then tell me its dead…
Just a few random thoughts….
My full time profession is as a deputy director of emergency management for a small county in eastern Kansas. But when I'm not working at my day job I enjoy chasing storms and helping the warning process that way.