A Modest Proposal: Crash Helmets for In-Home Use During a Tornado – Why Not?

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Every once in a while an idea comes along and we all wonder why no one thought of it before.

Over the last couple of hours the immediate region has been under all manner of watches and warnings for heavy rainfall, lightning, hail, potential straight-line wind damage and tornadoes.  Feeder roads and underpasses have filled up with water just from the sheer volume in such a short time and news reports are coming in of wind and possible tornado damage from all over this part of the state.

Radar and a tornado warning a few hours ago. Click to enlarge. Image: ImpactWeather, Inc.

Southeast Texas doesn’t get many tornadoes compared to many other parts of the country but it’s still a concern.  Now the University of Alabama at Birmingham is proposing that citizens who live in areas of the country that are either prone to experience tornadoes, or even where they’re merely just possible, should consider keeping safety helmets at home for use during a tornado.  “It’s such a common sense idea that we wonder why it hasn’t caught on,” said Scott Crawford, an epidemiologist and one of authors of “Safety Helmets: A Practical Inexpensive Solution for Reducing the Risk of Head Injuries Resulting from Tornadoes.”

It may not have been common sense before but it makes absolute sense now that the idea is getting around.  We’ve all read the countless “when we were kids” internet memes about how we survived the latter half of the last century despite the fact that we drank water from garden hoses, played on monkey bars and didn’t wear bicycle helmets.  And some of the newer safety trends that today’s parents engage in do seem a little ridiculous sometimes.  But with the majority of tornado-related injuries and fatalities resulting from head and neck injuries, why not spend 50 or 60 dollars on a helmet for each of your family members?

I’ve seen several tornadoes but I’ve never been in one.  I have, however, suffered a few concussions from various accidents and one thing I’ve learned is that your brain is the most expensive thing you own and it’s very difficult and very expensive to fix if it gets broken.  Just riding your bike down the block without a helmet is dumb.  If I ever am in a tornado, I sure want a helmet nearby to put on.  Why not spend a little extra just the one time to have a helmet handy?

Midland® WR-100B All-Hazard SAME Weather Alert Radio, just thirty bucks. Photo: RadioShack

In related news, authorities are also stepping up the campaign to motivate people to get a NOAA weather radio.  (In case you missed my point, if you don’t own one, go and get a NOAA weather radio.  Not all tornado-‘possible’ towns have warning sirens and even if yours does, in your sound-proofed bedroom you could easily sleep through it.)  Get one that has a battery backup in case the power goes out.  NOAA also provides a Specific Area Encoder Alarm (SAME) option so that you can receive alerts specific to your county and not have to listen to – or be awakened by – alerts that don’t pertain to you.  SAME-equipped receivers run about $50-100 but I just found one on sale for $29.99.  Learn more about SAME coding and find out what the codes are for your state, county or territory.

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