People who die or get badly injured in tornadoes often have head injuries. So doesn’t wearing a helmet make good sense? It does to many safety advocates who, as NPR reported recently, have started telling people to wear helmets when they hunker down during tornado warnings.
Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is speaking up — with what might be described as a mild endorsement of helmet use.
In a statement today, CDC said that while there’s no good research on the effectiveness of helmets in tornadoes, “we do know that head injuries are common causes of death during tornadoes, and we have long made the recommendation that people try to protect their heads.” If you decide to use a helmet for that purpose, the agency says, just make sure it doesn’t slow you down on your way to the basement or other shelter: “Looking for a helmet in the few seconds before a tornado hits may delay you getting safely to shelter.”
And wandering around in a tornado with just a helmet? Bad idea: “Helmets should not be considered an alternative to seeking appropriate shelter,” CDC says.
“This is very sensible advice,” says Mark Baker, an pediatric emergency physician at Children’s of Alabama. Baker and colleagues at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, began advocating helmet use in tornadoes after an outbreak on April 27, 2011, killed 21 people in their community.