Tornadoes were particularly devastating across much of the Midwest and southwestern United States last year, as over 500 people died tragically- the most in decades. Even though tornado season isn’t until June, 63 people have already died this year due to a tornado strike. As damaging as tornadoes can be, there are steps individuals can take that might help them survive a tornado, says advocates of a recent movement encouraging individuals to wear safety helmets during a tornado strike.
Flying debris presents the greatest danger to individuals who get sucked up into a tornado’s funnel. By wearing a helmet, you can protect your head from trauma caused by flying debris, while also guarding against injuries caused by a collapsing structure, such as a roof or wall. Children, whose heads tend to be larger when compared to the rest of their body, stand to benefit the most from wearing a helmet while in a hiding in a shelter or basement.
Advocacy groups have taken the initiative to start handing out bicycle helmets to parents and kids who live in the country’s “tornado alley” at a variety of local events. Public service campaigns designed to raise awareness about the benefits of wearing a helmet during a tornado have also been airing on radio and appearing in print. Doctors at children’s hospital across the Midwest are also onboard with the program, as many of them have seen first hand the benefits of kids wearing a helmet during a tornado, as they report few serious injuries.
Not everyone remains convinced, however, of how effective wearing a helmet can be during a tornado. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to come out and fully endorse the idea, and instead recommends that people cover their head with their hands. While the government office’s silence has enraged safety advocates, the CDC doesn’t believe enough scientific evidence exists supporting the wearing of helmets to warrant their endorsement of the practice.
This despite a recent study conducted by the University of Alabama’s Injury Control Research Center which found that many of the deaths attributed to last year’s tornados could have been prevented if more people had been wearing helmets. Whether or not the CDC eventually comes around to recommending the wearing of helmets, advocates make the case that tornado victims can only strengthen their odds of surviving the storm if they wear a helmet. And really, they don’t need much more of an argument than that.
A health blogger for Dr. Andrew Thompson, a dentist in NW Portland, Timothy Lemke lives in Oregon after years of living near tornado ally in the Midwest.
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