NOAO Safety Information

Stop Work

Safety at NOAO is a priority for all of our employees, observers, and visitors; see Director’s Stop Work Policy which authorizes anyone to stop work if they think it is unsafe. Director's Stop Work Memo   Stop Work Policy


Kitt Peak medical services are minimal, the general public should report all emergencies or safety concerns to the closest staff member, docent or to the visitor center.

Observers and collaborators should also report to staff and follow the Emergency Quick Reference Procedures, this document should be reviewed when onsite. The Environmental, Health & Safety Manual is also available as a reference and directs you to more detailed safety policies.

Rules & Policies

All visitors should review the Observatory Rules prior to their arrival and read the information page "Planning Your Visit With Us"

Safety Poster1    Poster2

Observers and visiting collaborators should review out Acknowledgment of Safety Procedures and AURA/NOAO Policy Handout, as well as any linked references contained therein. Upon arrival you will view a brief Safety Training slide show and be asked to sign the acknowledgment form for the AURA/NOAO Conduct, Liability & Safety policies.   4M Handout     WIYN Handout     WIYN 0.9m Handout    Generic Mountain Handout

For more Safety information see Environmental, Health & Safety Policy and Manual. When onsite and connected to the intranet visit the NOAO Safety Page

Potential Hazards 

  • Road Hazards  

Although Arizona State Route 386 can be easily driven by all types of vehicles it is a typical mountain road with curves, no passing zones and slower speed limits. On the lower section of SR386 range cattle and horses sometimes wonder onto the roadway. Other road hazards are falling rocks and debris, especially after a rain or a freeze. Wildlife on or crossing the road, low visibility, slippery surfaces during summer monsoon to snow and ice during the winter. Tucson and the surrounding area is very bicycle friendly and Kitt Peak trek is a popular ride during certain times of year. Please drive safety without distraction, be respectful and share the road.

  • Wildlife & Livestock

A large variety of wildlife and range animals inhabit the Kitt Peak area, some of which are dangerous or poisonous. For your safety do not feed, approach or disturb any wildlife or range animals. Report roadway wildlife sightings to the visitor center or other mountain staff upon arrival, as well as snakes located near building entries or on pathways. 

Summer monsoon brings some very powerful storms to the area, although lightning protection is installed it is still a very real hazard. If visiting during monsoon storm season please read the lightning safety tips.

  • Altitude

The elevation of Kitt Peak is 6,883 feet (2098m), high altitude is defined as 5,000-11500 ft. If you are feeling ill it is most likely altitude sickness, ask for assistance at the visitor center or other staff you find in the area. Hot days and dehydration can complicate altitude sickness. For more details about altitude sickness see our Altitude Awareness Policy.

  • Heat/Cold Awareness

Normal summer temperatures can be quite pleasant on Kitt Peak, the area has experienced highs reaching into the 90’s and 100’s ˚F. Be sure to stay hydrated and get to a cool area when feeling overheated.

Average low temperatures in the winter are in the thirties (˚F), they do fall into the teens and twenties (˚F) during the winter months. Check forecasts before your trip so you can dress appropriately. For more information see our Heat/Cold Stress Awareness Policy.

Mountain forecast

  • Fire

The southwest desert is an extremely dry area and fire danger is always high, all smoking is prohibited while on Kitt Peak, both indoors and outdoors. Report any indications of smoke or fire to any personnel you see so appropriate action can be taken.

Observers and collaborators should get familiar with the wildfire reporting and emergency procedures. In the event of fire visitors shall follow all directions issued and in extreme situations, evacuation or sheltering in place may be ordered for visitors and staff alike.

Last updated or reviewed April 22, 2019.