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Weather Spotter Safety

Spotter Safety: Your Number One Priority

Accurate and timely spotter reports are critical to your local community and to the National Weather Service. However, your first priority as a storm spotter is to STAY SAFE! Severe storms present a number of hazards, any of which could lead to injury or death if you're not extremely careful.

Depending on whether you are spotting from your vehicle or from a fixed location (like a home or business), there are hazards you need to be aware of and plan for when you're observing storms.

Mobile Spotter Safety Concerns

Mobile spotters are those who observe storms from their vehicle or from a position other than their home or business. In many communities, spotters have assigned observation locations - when spotters are activated, they go to their designated spot, and observe and report weather conditions. Some mobile spotters stay mobile during the storm and attempt to move along with the storm to maintain a view of the "action area" and report any changes as the storm progresses.

NOTE: The National Weather Service does not condone, endorse or recommend storm chasing. It is a dangerous practice and should not be attempted.

As a mobile spotter, there are important safety considerations you should think about. The following is a partial list of the hazards you may face as a mobile spotter:

Being on the Road

Even on a sunny day with no storms, driving a vehicle on a public roadway can be dangerous. When you add storms - with heavy rain, gusty winds, hail, blowing dust, etc - the danger increases dramatically. To stay safe as a mobile spotter, keep these things in mind:


All thunderstorms produce lightning, and people are killed and injured each year by lightning. Storm spotters may put themselves at risk from lightning by being in the open, being on a hill or high spot (for better visibility), parking or standing next to metal fences or underneath power lines, standing close to camera tripods or using radio equipment attached to antennae.

Remember that lightning typically provides no warning - the first strike that you see may be the last. Follow these basic lightning safety guidelines:

The Storm

If a mobile storm spotter is well trained, experienced and knowledgeable about severe storm structure and behavior, they can usually avoid becoming a victim of the storm itself. However, the environment in and near a severe storm can change dramatically in a short period of time, and these changes can catch you by surprise. These basic tips can help you stay safe:

Fixed Spotter Safety Concerns

When it comes to being safe, storm spotters who observe storms from a fixed location have some advantages, but also some disadvantages as compared to mobile spotters. Fixed spotters may have access to shelter and will not be exposed to the elements and all the hazards that mobile spotters face. However, there are instances when mobile spotters might be able to get out of the path of a dangerous storm, while fixed spotters cannot.

Fixed spotters should be mindful of all the hazards a severe storm can bring, including lightning, large damaging hail, violent straight-line winds, torrential rains and tornadoes. And just like everyone, fixed spotters should have a severe weather safety plan for wherever they may be. Remember these basic safety guidelines:

Last updated April 17, 2017 by KØCF
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