GLOSSARY As in the other sections, you can click on the glossary image wherever you see it, and the glossary will open in another window. Just close that window when you are ready to continue.

First of all, we are going to cover some chaser ethics. The basics are the following:

  • LIMIT data-gathering visits to the National Weather Service. Many chase documentaries feature the casual words: "___'s chase starts here at the National Weather Service". The very issue of chasers using government resources and facilities as a "base" for operations has recently become an item of serious discussion. Some offices have gone so far as to establish a local policy in dealing with chasers. Considering there are tremendous amounts of data available via laptop computers, it is strongly recommended that you don't begin your chase inside NWS offices. If you really have to visit a NWS office, only one person goes in and makes his request as brief and courteous as possible. You can find just about everything you can get at the NWS on the Internet somewhere!
  • OBEY laws. The "irresponsible" segment has infuriated some law enforcement departments, particularly in Kansas, making responsible chasers more vulnerable to citations and even arrests. This also means no pulling over on Interstate highways or trespassing on private land to take photos. Generally if you obey the laws, you will have nothing but positive experiences with law enforcement while chasing (or otherwise for that matter!).
  • MINIMIZE any enthusiastic discussion about severe weather while in mixed company. Remember that many residents in small towns on the Plains have had bad experiences or lost property due to severe weather.
  • Excerpted from a complete paper on Storm Chase Ethics by Alan Moller you can read here.

The following are things which many chasers agree are an absolute minimum for storm chasing. There is still several discussions each year among chasers about "gadget" chasing vs. "stealth" chasing. You will develop your own style of chasing and find out what works best for you though. Some chasers prefer to chase with all sorts of gear, others with nothing more than a map, a camera, and vehicle.
  • COMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT Above all, an amateur radio and an amateur radio license. Amateur radio is otherwise known as "HAM" radio. It is much easier now days to obtain this license, and most ham radio repeaters are on battery back up power, which means they will stay up when other forms of communications won't or are clogged with other traffic. To find out more about getting a ham license, check out the Amateur Radio Relay League. You can obtain a Technician license now without learning Morse code. Hopefully, once you get into the hobby, you will find all sorts of interest, but for our purposes, this license will allow you to use the great many frequencies that SKYWARN spotters use. Many of these groups operate these nets on the 2-meter band. There are many sources for purchasing your radio and there are many brands. Amateur Electronic Supply can be recommended as a good place to purchase. Not only will a ham radio with a license allow you to participate in the SKYWARN nets, it also gives you an excellent way to summon help, should you need it. A cell phone should also be considered, but be aware that during a severe WX disaster that these often get jammed and are unusable. They are more useful for downloading data to your laptop from the Internet.
  • A good quality police scanner. Get one with 800 MHz capabilities and trunk-tracking. Many law enforcement agencies have moved to this band. Also make sure it has a WX button, which will allow you fast access to the nearest NOAA WX Radio frequency. We run with two scanners in the primary chase vehicle, one of which we can dedicate to the SKYWARN networks, and the other to monitor NOAA, law enforcement or anything else we might need at the time. Keep in mind that in some states, it is illegal to have a scanner in your car. Possession of an amateur radio license exempts you from that. All the more reason to get the license.
  • MAPS, MAPS, MAPS! You need to be able to know where you are at all times, and how to get out of there if necessary. Collect as many maps as you can find about the area you are planning to chase in. In addition, if you have a laptop, there are some excellent mapping programs, some of which use GPS tracking, so you know exactly where you are all the time. Delorme is one favorite among chasers. Many chasers consider this their single most important piece of equipment.
  • First Aid and CPR. This cannot be stressed enough. I think it is something that EVERYONE should have, but definitely chasers. Courses are offered through your local Red Cross Chapter at a minimum expense. The life you safe may be someone dear to you. If you are so inclined, it would be advantageous to also get at least some First Responder training in emergency care. Nothing could be worse than stumbling across a damage path full of victims and not knowing how to help.
Special thanks to Dr. Jason Persoff, MD for the material in this section!







So what do I do if I think that chasing on my own would be too much for me?

Well, there are still some options for you. There are several Storm Chase Tours in operation. You can find them by searching for Storm Chase Tours. Beware that they are VERY expensive. Your other option is to hook up with a storm chaser and ride along on some chases. Several will take you with them, but finding them can be hard. Getting involved in the weather and chase community will help you meet like minded people, and maybe a storm chaser or two.


DISCLAIMER: Storm spotting/chasing has the potential to be a life threatening activity. The material presented here is for educational purposes only. You are strongly suggested to contact someone in your area about getting official SKYWARN training and riding along with someone with spotting/chasing experience before ever attempting to do so on your own. By viewing the material contained within, you agree that you alone are accept responsibility for what you do with this information.
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