Tornadoes don't have to be deadly, experts say

July 19, 2012
Tornadoes don't have to be deadly, experts say
Having a 'safe room' nearby, staying alert to warnings key to saving lives, CDC notes.

(HealthDay) -- More "safe rooms" to flee to, listening for weather alerts and better planning, especially for seniors, could reduce the death toll from devastating tornadoes, a new U.S.government report finds.

"People who work or live in tornado-prone areas should develop a tornado safety plan before strikes," said Federico Feldstein, a spokesman for the U.S. (CDC), which conducted the new study.

The report focused on the aftermath of a deadly cluster of that struck the southeastern United States last year between April 25 and 28, claiming 338 lives -- the third-deadliest tornado disaster in U.S. history.

The CDC researchers found that certain patterns emerged from the wreckage. They noted that 40 percent of bodies were recovered outdoors near the impact area, about half of the fatalities occurred in single-family homes, and those living in mobile homes were at especially high risk.

All of this emphasizes the importance of getting quickly to a "safe room," the CDC authors said, if one exists nearby.

According to the report, "federal and state assessments conducted after this disaster found a general inadequacy of available storm shelters in the impacted areas," which included locales in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee -- states long prone to tornadoes.

The CDC defines a safe room as "either an underground shelter, such as the interior part of a basement, or a specific tornado-safe room that is a hardened (e.g., concrete) above-ground structure specifically designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) criteria for providing 'near-absolute protection' in extremely powerful ."

Helmets might also be useful, because was a leading factor in many of the tornado deaths. While there's no solid evidence that wearing a helmet can protect tornado victims from head trauma, having one close by is advised. However, "choosing to use helmets to protect the head should not be considered an alternative to seeking appropriate shelter," the CDC researchers said.

The CDC team noted that the April 2011 deaths occurred despite the presence of tornado warning systems and intense media attention. Not surprisingly, nighttime tornadoes were deadlier than those in the daytime, but the experts urge people in storm-prone areas to stay "informed of storm watches and warnings" at all times "by using a weather band radio or other means."

Older people are especially vulnerable, with almost one-third of the dead from last April's storms being age 65 or older. For this reason, "emergency planning for vulnerable older adults is important," the CDC said, and should include items such as plans for finding shelter and properly preparing caregivers.

Agency experts say that because tornadoes can be both unpredictable and deadly, "increased awareness of the need to prepare for the worst-case scenario by pre-identifying and sheltering in an adequate tornado-safe room . . . remain critical to saving lives."

The findings are published in the July 20 issue of the CDC's journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Explore further: April was record-setting month for tornadoes

More information: Find out more about "safe rooms" at FEMA.


Related Stories

April was record-setting month for tornadoes

August 3, 2011
(AP) -- The U.S. set a record for the most tornadoes within a month with April's deadly storms.

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.