Can a Helmet Protect You From a Tornado?
Safety experts now recommend that people wear helmets during tornadoes
Helmets can protect you on your bike, while you’re playing sports—and even during a tornado! Health and safety advocates around the country are now promoting protective headgear as an essential part of any tornado safety kit.
Many states have not yet hit their peak tornado months, or the times of year when tornadoes are most likely to occur. However, more than 300 confirmed tornadoes have already occurred in the United States this year, causing at least 63 deaths.
Most tornado deaths occur because of head injuries from airborne debris. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people should protect their heads with anything they can, even their hands, during a tornado.
But some safety experts say this is misleading advice. After all, your hands are vulnerable body parts too. “Why not wear a helmet while taking shelter?” says Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota’s state climatologist. “Then you would have two free hands that can do something else . . . without compromising your own safety.”
TOSSED BY A TORNADO
Some people have already put this theory to the test. Last year, 8-year-old Noah Stewart wore his Little League batting helmet during a tornado in Alabama. The tornado sucked him out of his house and he briefly floated high in the air. Then he fell to the ground.
“The wind just immediately stopped, and I was going down headfirst, and then I think my helmet just cracked,” Noah told National Public Radio. He survived the tornado, and his doctor credits the helmet with protecting him.
Motorcycle helmets with a face shield are the ideal helmets for tornado protection. But any helmet will do.
Russ Fine, an injury epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells ABC News, “[P]rotect your head, whether it’s [with] a hard hat from a construction site, a football helmet, a motorcycle helmet, [or] a bicycle helmet.”
If you can’t find a helmet, a mattress or heavy blanket can also offer protection in an emergency.
Here are some other tips to remember if a tornado strikes your area.
- The most important thing to do is find shelter! If you’re in a mobile home, get out as soon as possible and find shelter in a permanent building.
- Go to the lowest floor in the building (a basement is good) and try to put as many walls as possible between you and the tornado. Closets or bathrooms make good safe spots. Lying flat in a bathtub can also protect you.
- If you can’t find shelter, get as far away as you can from trees and other heavy objects. Lie flat on low ground and cover your head with your hands.