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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:

Always spot with a partner – This allows the driver to focus on the road while the passenger watches the sky. This also provides an extra set of eyes to keep an eye on rapidly changing situations.

Watch for water on the road – Hydroplaning is a serious threat for drivers, and it doesn’t take much rain to cause roads to become slick and hazardous.

Obey traffic laws – Speeding, parking too close to the edge of the road and making sudden turns and stops on unfamiliar roads all spell trouble.

Watch out for the “other guy” – Severe storms in the Plains often draw a crowd of onlookers, from casual observers to organized groups of storm chasers. Be extra careful when stopping to view a storm, making sure to pull completely off roadways and keeping an eye out for traffic, even in places where you would never expect to see traffic.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for action – A well-maintained vehicle with a full tank of gas is crucial for a mobile spotter’s safety and success.


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:

Avoid being the tallest object, and stay away from other tall objects (like trees, power pole/lines)

Don’t stand close to fences or power poles/lines. Even though you may not be in an area of frequent lightning, lightning can travel a considerable distance along these pathways.


As mentioned before, you should not wait for some type of warning (hair standing on end, sounds on AM or other radio equipment, etc) before taking shelter from lightning – the first strike from a storm could be the one that gets you. Treat lightning with respect and stay in a protected area when lightning is in the area.

CPR training is an excellent idea for all mobile storm spotters. Remember that a person struck by lightning carries no residual charge and CPR could save a life.

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:

Avoid the most intense areas of storms – This seems obvious, but each year spotters, for one reason or another, make decisions that place them in the core of a dangerous storm. Storm chasers call this “core-punching” and it’s a very dangerous practice for a number of reasons. First, you may drive into very large hail, which can damage your vehicle and injure you. Second, you could drive right into the path of a tornado with very little time to react. And finally, the core of the storm is a dangerous place with low visibilities, heavy rain, and violent winds.

Keep your head on a swivel – When observing a storm, it is easy to lose focus and become fixated on some feature you’re watching. You should maintain awareness of what’s going on all around you and always be mindful of a surprise event. This points out the importance of spotting with a partner, who can be an extra set of eyes and ears to help you stay safe.

ALWAYS have an escape route in mind – Mobile spotters should always plan an emergency escape route that will take them out of harm’s way should the storm change direction or otherwise threaten them. Determining that escape route requires a great deal of knowledge about the storm’s movement and behavior. A detailed set of current maps of your spotting area is a critical part of a mobile spotter’s toolbox, but be mindful of the fact that roads sometimes change before maps do, and they may not reflect reality in every case.

Never drive into areas where water covers the road – This is especially true when you cannot be certain how deep the water is. Many people die each year by driving into flooded areas and drowning in their vehicles. Find another safer route.

Keep your engine running – Especially when operating close to a severe storm. You do not want to find out about a vehicle problem as a violent storm bears down on you.

Be extra cautious at night – Obviously, it is more dangerous to deal with something you cannot clearly see. Storms at night present special problems for spotters and you should be extremely cautious when observing storms after dark.


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:

Tornado safety – Get underground or into a safe room or basement if possible. If none of these are available, get on the lowest floor of a sturdy building, putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Avoid windows, doors and outside walls. Cover your head and body to protect yourself from deadly flying debris. Mobile homes and vehicles should be abandoned for more substantial shelter.

Lightning safety – Stay away from doors and windows. Avoid using electrical appliances and stay away from plumbing fixtures, as these can be pathways for lightning to enter a building. Stay off the telephone, especially corded phones, as much as possible.

Hail and wind safety – Severe thunderstorms can produce destructive hail and damaging winds, even without a tornado. Follow the tornado safety rules, especially when a storm contains very large hail and/or violent winds. 



We rarely are more vulnerable than when walking in urban areas, crossing busy streets and negotiating traffic. And we all are pedestrians from time to time, so it's important to pay attention to what is going on around us.

Head Up, Phone Down

Distracted walking incidents are on the rise, and everyone with a cell phone is at risk. According to a Governors Highway Safety Association report, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities in 2017. This number mirrors 2016 fatalities.

We are losing focus on our surroundings and putting our safety – and the safety of others – at risk. The solution: Stop using phones while walking, and not just in crosswalks and intersections. Over half of distracted walking injuries occur in our own homes, proving that we need to stay aware of our surroundings, whether they’re new or familiar.

The Vehicle Factor

While many communities are implementing measures to become more "walkable" like adding more paths and traffic-calming measures, there still is a long way to go to keep pedestrians safe. Malls surrounded by parking lots, few sidewalks, blind intersections and high traffic areas all contribute to pedestrian fatalities and injuries. 

All Age Groups are Vulnerable

While pedestrian-vehicle injuries are the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19, according to, no age group is immune. Here are a few tips from NHTSA and NSC for children and adults of all ages:

  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street; looking left a second time is necessary because a car can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time
  • Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
  • Be aware of drivers even when you're in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots
  • Don't wear headphones while walking
  • Never use a cell phone or other electronic device while walking
  • If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic
  • Never rely on a car to stop
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult
  • Only cross at designated crosswalks
  • Wear bright and/or reflective clothing
  • Walk in groups


Walking is one of the best things we can do to stay healthy, but only if we put safety first. At the National Safety Council, we don't believe in accidents. Please join us in doing everything you can to prevent senseless injuries and deaths.

Every vehicle should have an emergency supply kit located in the trunk. Kits should be checked every six months, and expired items should be replaced to keep it up to date.

Vehicle emergency supply kids should include:

    • A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack
    • Jumper cables
    • Tool kit and/or a multipurpose utility tool
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Reflective triangles and brightly colored cloth to make your vehicle more visible
    • Compass
    • First aid kit with gauze, tape, bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, a blanket, nonlatex gloves, scissors, hydrocortisone, thermometer, tweezers and instant cold compress
    • Nonperishable, high-energy foods, such as unsalted nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
    • Drinking water
    • Reflective vest in case you need to walk to get help
    • Car charger for your cell phone
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Duct tape
    • Rain poncho
    • Additional items for cold weather include a snow brush, shovel, windshield washer fluid, warm clothing, cat litter for traction and blankets


It's also a good idea to keep family and emergency phone numbers, including your auto insurance provider and a towing company, in your phone.