A new study from the American Journal of Public Health analyzes the deadly 2011 Alabama tornado outbreak and underscores the need for local community shelters, preparedness planning and the importance of word-of-mouth warnings.
Researchers captured mortality data from the American Red Cross and death certificates and identified cause of death – whether directly or indirectly related to the tornadoes. They also analyzed where decedents were located during the tornado, the warning they received and what action they took in response to the storm. The storms were categorized as some of the most dangerous at levels of EF-4 and EF-5.
Findings indicated a total of 247 deaths related to the tornadoes in which most deaths were attributable directly to the tornado and took place indoors and within a single-family home. Basements and bathrooms were the most common locations. In addition, many did receive a warning of the tornado and word of mouth was the most common means of disseminating that information.
The study’s findings emphasize the need for more local community shelters and information to the public about their availability. Further, the study highlights the importance of a family preparedness plan and recommends promoting future warnings by word of mouth.
“Many of these recommendations support recommendations after past events and parallel those of the National Weather Service and the Tornado Recovery Action Council in Alabama. We have also seen encouraging progress toward implementing some of these recommendations,” the authors wrote.
“Mortality from a tornado outbreak, Alabama, April 27, 2011.” Contact: Cindy Chiu, Health Studies Branch, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
American Journal of Public Health