Safety is our number one priority here at Extreme Tornado Tours, period. While our name might insinuate that we do things a little different than most, we can assure you that our chasing practices are in line with the safest of touring companies out there. With experience in storm chasing comes better safety procedures and our guides are some of the best storm chasers in the world having logged literally hundreds of tornado sightings between them with over 50 years combined experience. Extreme Tornado Tours has been in operation since 2008 and in that time period we have never had a single incident involving a tour guest or guide affected by a weather event while on tour with us.
- GUIDE/TEAM SAFETY MEETINGS AND PROCEDURES
We have one major safety meeting with our entire operational team at the beginning of our 9-week season and follow up safety meetings before each tour. We work with safety professionals in various fields as well as brainstorming our own storm chasing tactics and ways that we can become safer. We employee a degreed Meteorologist at all times while on tour to educate and ensure our safety in inclement weather. Our entire team of employees is also covered by a worker’s compensation insurance plan.
Our team/guide safety topics include:
- A company safety plan curated by Extreme Tornado Tours owner/tour director Nick Drieschman and an OSHA trained safety professional outlining code of conduct guidelines for our team/guides/drivers. This document is provided to and explained in great deal and signed by each employee.
- Guide meeting with Extreme Tornado Tours Meteorologist Kevin Rolfs on weather thoughts and practices for safety while on tour.
- All of our drivers must complete a drivers safety course and take part in our driving while storm chasing traffic guidelines meeting.
- There will be at least one Red Cross First Aid/CPR trained Extreme Tornado Tours guide on tour at all times during operation of the tours.
- Each guide will be trained on the topics of guest safety including out of van, in van and down time safety. These topics include anything from watching guests at all times next to busy roads when out of van viewing/photographing, potential roadside hazards to guests and making sure that seatbelts are always fastened.
- Each tour vehicle comes with two dedicated tour guides that oversee all operations and is capable of making decisions based on additional training they receive as a whole group or on their own if separated from the other van. One guide serves as a dedicated navigator/guest advisor while the other is a driver with their only task being watching the road.
- Limits to when we can chase on tour and how. For example, we do not storm chase in large cities due to the possibilities of traffic inhibiting our exit routes. There are many other reasons we might choose to skip a chase or chase elsewhere and are handled on a case by case basis managed by our Tour Director and experienced guides based on their past experience.
- • GUEST SAFETY MEETINGS AND PROCEDURES
We begin each tour with an orientation meeting that includes safety topics with our guests. In this meeting we concentrate on a variety of safety subjects and guidelines that we have while chasing. Over the years we have created a unique to ETT set of guidelines that ensure our entire tour group is well informed of our procedures while in the field. We are constantly evolving these guidelines as we learn more each season.
- Color coded verbal system for tour guests that informs them of the level of severity for an out of van stop that enables them to ingress into vans more quickly if a possibly unsafe event arises.
- An information pack/waiver that adheres to standard safety procedures (always having seatbelt on in tour vans, strict no alcohol/drug use in vans, etc.) that protects and informs our guests.
- Strict guidelines for our out of van stops for guests when on the roadside including distance from roadways during viewing/photographing, safe ingress/egress in and out of vans and being mindful of hazards unique to the areas and conditions we are stopping in.
- Information about possible roadside hazards and dangers including watching footing, venomous animals/insects.
- TOUR VEHICLE QUALITY AND MAINTENANCE, TOOLS AND ITEMS WE USE FOR INCREASED SAFETY
Safety starts with a plan and is executed by trained employees with the proper equipment. That starts with having properly maintained tour vehicles, and equipment that allows us to perform our job more safely. We hold ourselves to being well prepared at all times when operating.
The items and practices we use to do this are:
- Meticulously maintained Ford E350 15 passenger vans that we limit to only 6-7 guests at a time. These vehicles are the strongest out there for passenger use and are specially outfitted with tools that allow us to be safer including:
- Top of the line GMRS radio devices from our partner Midland Radio for communications between vans.
- Michelin brand all season tires that are always changed out each season or 25,000 miles.
- Directional amber hazard lighting for off road use or where legal for visibility purposes.
- Added side lighting for illuminating guests’ ingress/egress on the right side of vans and surrounding areas in low light conditions.
- Navigational tour guide ran laptop computer using the latest in weather radar technology data provided by partner Allison House.
- The strongest internet provider and internet booster devices you can get for a near constant stream of data necessary for operating our radar and navigation systems.
- Each van is equipped with a valid date fire extinguisher, OSHA certified First Aid kit, toolbox, and roadside safety box including flares, tow straps, spare bulbs/parts for vans etc.
Hopefully you can get a good idea of how much we care about safety and the lengths we go to in making sure we are doing our best to keep our guests and team as safe as possible. It’s a common misconception that storm chasing is a dangerous activity, when in fact since its inception in the 1960’s there has only been one tornado incident that resulted in loss of life of storm chasers. The storm chasing tour industry has never had a single incident of loss of life, ever, and some of these businesses have been operating for 30 years. News media and the movies portray storm chasing and most all tornadoes we chase as destructive and violent, when nearly all of the tornadoes we see are in the lower ratings typically just lazily spinning out in a field away from life and property. In fact, large violent tornadoes are so rare, the US has not had a single EF5 rated tornado since May of 2013, nearly 7 years ago from the time of this writing.
As we continue to grow so does our safety ethics, and that is something that will never stop at ETT. One of the most common positive testimonials we receive from our guests is how safe they felt with us, as it is typically a main concern for those new to storm chasing tours. You will see this throughout our reviews, and it is because we practice what we preach, we don’t just talk about it. We take your safety and the safety of our team very seriously here, rest assured. If you are looking for a tour company that cares about your safety, and you should, look no further than us here at Extreme Tornado Tours.