Thread: Severe Weather

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    Default Severe Weather

    Our dept will be going out to do storm spotting (tornado) this year, we never did this the local pd did it. We are still deciding how many/which rigs and crew members to staff them would go out and where to send them. I was looking to see how other depts do this and to see if any of your ways would work for us.

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    Honestly..I think its kinda Jacked up to be going out in the crap..but since we get paid for it..I always do! lol..but here in southeast missouri..our department policy is..when we are placed under a tornado watch..the duty crew (3man crew) takes the duty pumper out to the airport and storm watches at that location..has good open view to the west(where most of our storms come from)... when we are placed under a tornado warning..the part-time staff respond to the engine house and staff 1-2 engines depending on manpower and we locate them at various spots in the city..mostly with views of the west..a highway overpass is one, and another common location is a large strip mall parking lot..

    thats just how we roll..hope this helps!
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    we no basically the same deal here in eastern iowa
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    The village "contracts" with the our FD for storm spotting and other EMA duties. When a Tornado warning is issued for our area or we see that an unusually strong storm is headed our way we tone ourselves out and any available members report to their stations. From there we send out our two 1500 series pick-ups, which the village bought and we have outfitted with our radios lights and decals. One truck goes NW of town the other goes SW of town about 3 miles out. That distance works well for us because the next town is 4 miles west of us so if they pick somthin up we know where to look as soon as it is out of their town. We do not use our primary response vehicles for spotting, so they can not be called away for another emergency and leave that area open. If you are out spotting you are dedicated to that job until the threat is past.

    Get your guys that want to spot to some spotter training classes. Make sure they know the diffrence of low hanging clouds that are just getting blown around to a true funnel, and what a wall cloud looks like compared to a discolored leading edge of a front. You'd think it would be easy but I've got stories of guys (me included) who've gotten ancy and called in what looked like a funnel and had the sirens set off when is was just some low hanging clouds. Also be VERY careful if you decide to place spotters after dark. If you do keep them closer to town and make sure they know where they can go for cover if the need arises.

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    We are located in Wi. We have had the storm spotter classes already. We would only go out in tornado warnings. We just don't know if we want 2 or 3 trucks out, which ones and how many guys to fill the trucks. We're a paid on call dept. so sometimes its hard to get guys to leave their families to go out and look for storms, but we have enough younger single guys that want to do this too.

    Our thinking is if a severe storm would hit our city all of our equipment is in one location and it might become unavailable or damaged, but having some equipment out of the station if a storm would hit we would have some things available until mutual aid companies could respond...unless they have the same thing happen to them.
    Last edited by ltkeith25; 03-09-2011 at 10:37 AM.

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    Seems so funny picturing all these fire engines out chasing tornados =) Glad my area never gets em.
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    IMO, and I know nothing about storm spotting, I would disperse as many apparatus as you can. Similar to what we did in Iraq. Keep things spread out, and able to respond from as many angles as possible. Never good to all have all the apparatus at one place at one time with a tornado baring down.
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    We send a tanker NW of town, a tanker SW of town, and have our personnel vehicle go around to our larger occupancies clearing them out. The ambulance crew also dispatches and ambulance to our station and backs it in there to spread out their resources on the opposite edges of town.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JT_Fire_2000 View Post
    Seems so funny picturing all these fire engines out chasing tornados =) Glad my area never gets em.
    Never say never. Tornados have occurred in all 50 states.
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    If you're going to consider storm spotting, my biggest recommendation is to make sure your guys go to the NWS spotter training session nearest to you. I don't know how it works in WI, but they have at least one in every county annually, typically March (ours is next week, actually).

    The second recommendation I have is that you DO NOT stage personnel in a static location. Nearby a firefighter was killed when he was hit by a tornado in a location where he couldn't see it coming. The optimal view is from the southwest of the storm, where tornadoes typically form. Typically there's little, if any, rain in that location and the cell is readily viewable.

    The way we have been doing it for several years is the way that NWS is now teaching. We station a guy at the station watching radar- online, on TV, listening to weather radio, etc. He has constant communication with the guys in the field and guide them to a safe location. He watches the tracking, intensity, and all that. We try to keep our guys to the south of the storm a few miles so that they have an optimal vantage point. If they spot anything, they can track it and follow it, updating the IC and/or dispatch along the way. This keeps them out of the path and out of the downdraft.

    This has worked out VERY well for us. When we got hit with a series of storms in 2008, one of our units was able to locate the tornado, track it, and we cleared a trailer park within 20 minutes of it hitting. He as on scene minutes after it hit and established command and started recon in the area until others could work their way there.

    When our town got hit in May of that year, it worked out just as well. It was after that storm (same storm and even same tornado that killed the guy mentioned above) that we met with NWS to discuss our actions and ironically they changed their spotter program to match our methods.

    If it's a squall line or a storm that's not supercell/tornadic that the only threats are straight-line winds, hail, heavy rain, etc., we don't send spotters out. We used to, but I honestly don't see the sense, so we stopped. After the storm blows through we'll go out to do damage assessments and check locally for overturned trailers, etc. These are storms that are just too large to stay out of the wind and other threats, so we just keep them home until it's through.

    Knowing how these storms work and behave is going to be your most effective way of making sure you don't get anyone hurt.

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