The following safety guidelines and recommendations should be adopted by spotters, storm chasers and weather researchers when working in or near dangerous storms.  The following should be adapted or modified to meet your teams specific severe weather safety guidelines.

Keeping yourself and others safe is the number one priority.  Work done around severe storms is done at your own risk.  Severe storms can and are deadly.


11 Standard Tornado Orders
  1. Keep informed on tornado weather conditions and forecasts.
  2. Know what your tornado is doing at all times.
  3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the tornado.
  4. Identify escape routes and safety zones, and make them known.
  5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger.
  6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.
  7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.
  8. Give clear instructions and insure they are understood.
  9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.
  10. Communicate retreat procedures and assembly points
  11. Perform scientific analysis of tornado activity efficiently having provided for safety first.
Note: Added "retreat" order in light of the recent 4 storm chaser deaths May 31, 2013.

Adapted from the Standard Fire Orders developed in 1957 by a task force commissioned by the USDA-Forest Service.


Eighteen Watch Out Situations

  1. Tornado not scouted and sized up.
  2. In country not seen in daylight.
  3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified.
  4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing tornado behavior.
  5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.
  6. Instructions and assignments not clear.
  7. No communication link with crew members or supervisor.
  8. Deploying mobile mesonet's and probe lines without escape routes identified.
  9. Deploying mobile mesonet's and probe lines without sufficient tornado clearance
  10. Attempting core punching on a tornado.
  11. Potential debris between you and tornado.
  12. Cannot see main tornado; not in contact with someone who can.
  13. In area where debris can prevent escape.
  14. Weather becoming severe with limited visibility.
  15. Tornado increases in size and/or changes direction.
  16. Getting a multitude of tornados in observation area.
  17. Terrain and roads make escape to safety zones difficult.
  18. Taking eyes off sky near tornado.

NOAA PA 92055


Keep aware of the local environment at all times. When in the vicinity of a thunderstorm, keep a 2-mile “buffer zone” between you and the storm.

Frequently check the sky overhead and behind to ensure no unexpected events (such as a new tornado) are developing. 
Always have an escape route available, in case threatening weather approaches or if you get within the 2-mile “buffer zone.”
















Public Safety Recommendation For Tornados














Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watchout Situations - History * 


"The original ten Standard Firefighting Orders were developed in 1957 by a task force commissioned by the USDA-Forest Service Chief Richard E. McArdle. The task force reviewed the records of 16 tragedy fires that occurred from 1937 to 1956. The Standard Firefighting Orders were based in part on the successful "General Orders" used by the United States Armed Forces. The Standard Firefighting Orders are organized in a deliberate and sequential way to be implemented systematically and applied to all fire situations.  Shortly after the Standard Firefighting Orders were incorporated into firefighter training, the 18 Situations That Shout Watch Out were developed. These 18 situations are more specific and cautionary than the Standard Fire Orders and described situations that expand the 10 points of the Fire Orders. If firefighters follow the Standard Firefighting Orders and are alerted to the 18 Watch Out Situations, much of the risk of firefighting can be reduced."

Please use these guidelines as needed to assist in keeping you and your team safe when working near tornados and severe storms.


Please update and distribute as needed.

Copyright 2011-2013 by Tom Dolan. All rights reserved. Federal copyright law prohibits unauthorized reproduction.



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Last modified: 05/18/20