Mortality From a Tornado Outbreak, Alabama, April 27, 2011

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Abstract

Objectives

We describe the demographics of the decedents from the tornado outbreak in Alabama on April 27, 2011; examine the circumstances of death surrounding these fatalities; and identify measures to prevent future tornado-related fatalities.

Methods

We collected information about the decedents from death certificates, disaster-related mortality surveillance, and interview data collected by American Red Cross volunteers from the decedent’s families. We describe demographic characteristics, circumstances and causes of death, and sheltering behaviors before death.

Results

Of the 247 fatalities, females and older adults were at highest risk for tornado-related deaths. Most deaths were directly related to the tornadoes, on scene, and trauma-related. The majority of the deceased were indoors in single-family homes. Word of mouth was the most common warning mechanism.

Conclusions

This tornado event was the third deadliest in recent US history. Our findings support the need for local community shelters, enhanced messaging to inform the public of shelter locations, and encouragement of word-of-mouth warnings and personal and family preparedness planning, with a special focus on assisting vulnerable individuals in taking shelter.

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