Growing up with a father who loved chasing storms, I experienced some seriously close encounters with Mother Nature. While I certainly learned to respect extreme weather and the value of preparation, I also heard plenty of folklore and urban myths about the best way to stay safe during storms. From where to stand during an earthquake to the best way to protect your home from a hurricane, here’s the real truth behind four common storm safety myths.
On April 27, 2011, an F4 tornado ripped through central Alabama. Head injuries caused more than half of all fatalities. Would helmets have made a difference? Maybe. Helmets can protect the head from falling debris. However, helmets are only useful if they are stored in an easily accessible location. When a tornado strikes, most people have only a few moments to seek safety. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that “looking for a helmet in the few seconds before a tornado hits may delay you getting safely to shelter.”
Truth: Helmets are not a substitute for shelter.
Back away from the door! According to the California State Department of Conservation, taking shelter in a doorway is only a good idea if you live in an unreinforced adobe home. In modern buildings, the entire structure is reinforced so standing in the doorway offers no benefit. In fact, standing in a doorway is dangerous – you’re more likely to be injured by a swinging door when the building shakes. Additionally, standing in the doorway of a public building can block exits and cause you to be trampled when people rush outside.
Truth: Stay safe by taking shelter under a table or heavy desk.
Sorry, but simple physics quickly dispels this storm safety myth. The “open windows” myth is based on the incorrect belief that a buildup of pressure inside a house can cause the roof to blow off during a tornado. However, it’s not the pressure that destroys a home during a tornado, but the force of winds and flying debris. A 260 mph wind will flatten just about anything in its path, including your home. Open windows can do nothing to stop this. In fact, opening windows allows additional debris into your home.
Truth: Don’t waste time opening windows. Take shelter immediately in an underground basement, storm shelter or a windowless interior room.
Save your tape. Taping does nothing to strengthen windows or prevent them from breaking during a hurricane. The only safe way to protect glass windows is with storm shutters. Choose shutters constructed from 5/8-inch plywood or metal.
Truth: Storm-proofing your home with hurricane shutters is a quick and easy way to reduce property damage and increase safety.