Experts Offer Tips on How to Survive a Tornado - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Experts Offer Tips on How to Survive a Tornado


Some safety experts in Alabama say their research challenges what we've always been told about how to protect ourselves in a tornado.

They examined the fatality reports from last April's killer storms and they say people must do a better job of protecting their heads.

When a tornado threatens with its certainty of destruction, injury and death, what you do in those precious minutes might mean the difference between living and dying.

FOX 5 asked the Simmons family of Fayetteville to show us their plan for severe weather. They got it right, moving to an interior room on the first floor -- they have no basement -- and then riding out the winds that howl outside.

But is this enough? Can families do more?

The Centers for Disease Control website suggests covering your body with a blanket, covering your head with your hands.

Dr. Russ Fine of the University of Alabama-Birmingham's Injury Control Research Center says potentially life-saving lessons were learned from last April’s destructive and deadly tornadoes that hit that state.

He says the CDC needs to get the word out immediately.

On April 27, 2011, 67 tornadoes ripped through central Alabama killing 248 people.

"Not surprisingly, almost half had died principally because of head severe head injury,” said Fine.

Seeking shelter and doing a better job of protecting your head may be the combination that saves lives in future storms.

Dr. Mark Baker was working in the emergency room of UAB's Children's Hospital that day and saw nearly all of the 60 children injured and transported there. He said many of them suffered from head injuries.

“During tornadoes children fly as a result of high velocity winds,” said Baker.

Adults were also blown out of their homes. Many had taken shelter in an interior room or bathroom and it wasn't enough.

Birmingham Police Officer Mike Culberson grabbed a motorcycle helmet when April's tornado took direct aim at his house.

"I saw it. Picked it and put it on and went to my safe place,” said Culberson.

Mike laid on the floor between the bath tub and the vanity. Trees crashed down on his home. Heavy beams blew through the ceiling on top of his head. His motorcycle helmet protected him from serious injury.

"I would encourage everyone in a tornado to put something on your head,” said Culberson. "I don't know if I would have gotten killed. I do know I would have at least had some head injury."

Fine believes everyone should wear a safety helmet in their shelter area.

Baker agrees. He and his colleagues at the children’s hospital are researching kids who survived in households where others had died -- kids who used a safety device such as a baseball helmet.

"One child wore a baseball helmet and he flew at least 50 feet in the air and up to 150 in length,” said Baker.

Dr. Baker says that child survived and was discharged from the hospital the same night with only minor scratches.

FOX 5 Storm Team chief meteorologist Ken Cook said he liked the idea, but only if it was convenient.

“I wouldn't waste time going to find it, but if you had it on the doorway going down to the basement, grab it throw it on,” said Cook.

Experts say any helmet will work, but helmets with chinstraps are the best, but they say seeking shelter should be the first priority.


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