Highlands Donates Helmets to County’s Special Education Classes


Representatives of Highlands Medical Center (HMC) were at Scottsboro High School on Tuesday morning to make a special donation.

Based on information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HMC decided to assist local schools by purchasing more than 140 safety helmets to be used in the event of a tornado or other form of severe weather. These helmets will be provided to special needs students in schools throughout the Scottsboro City and Jackson County school districts. In the event of a tornado, each student will now have their own personal safety helmet with their name on it as an alternative to covering their head with a hardcover book to help prevent head injuries.

Wendy Hastings and Pam Vernon, the lead nurses for the city and county school system, respectively, were at SHS on Tuesday to accept the donated helmets and said they appreciated HMC’s generosity in helping the students.
“We want to show our appreciation to Highlands for this donation,” Vernon said. “The school systems don’t have the funding to do something like this, so we depend on community support.”

“The health, safety and happiness of our students is always the most important, and the safety aspect becomes especially important during tornadoes and other severe weather events,” Hastings added. “These helmets are for special needs students, and a lot of these students are physically unable to cover their heads with a book to protect themselves during a tornado, which is why these helmets are so important.”

HMC Marketing Manager Jennifer McCurdy said enough helmets were purchased for the teachers of these students as well. Ryan Dunaway, who teaches special education with Katie Majors at SHS, said the students practice severe weather safety once a month and that the helmets would become part of these monthly safety drills. But the SHS special education class isn’t the only one receiving helmets, as classes at Caldwell Elementary, Collins Intermediate and roughly 15 schools in the county district are also getting them. And, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), helmets are an essential addition to tornado safety preparations.

“Head injuries are a major cause of tornado-related deaths in the United States,” said Scott Crawford, a research assistant at the ICRC. “Alabama is the nationwide leader in tornado-related deaths with 412 fatalities recorded since 1980, demonstrating the need for a readily available, low-cost intervention to reduce risk.”

According to the medical examiner’s office in Jefferson County, at least 11 of the 21 fatalities in the county in the wake of the massive April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak resulted from head or neck injuries. And Hastings said the meaning of HMC’s donation is all the more significant in light of the recent fourth anniversary of this outbreak.

“With yesterday being April 27 and remembering the events of four years ago, this is a much-appreciated donation because keeping our kids safe is really important,” Hastings said Tuesday.

According to the UAB ICRC researchers, tornado-associated head injuries have a statistically higher case-fatality rate of 23 percent versus the three percent case-fatality rate of all other injuries combined. As a result, the researchers recommend “the use of any helmet or head covering made of a hard material and worn to protect the head from injury, stored in an easily and readily accessible location in the home, workplace or vehicle for which one of its purposes is to be worn in the event of or threat of tornadic activity.” The researchers said a motorcycle helmet with full head and facial protection works best but added that any helmet is better than no helmet at all.

Thanks to HMC, special education students throughout the county are now equipped with safety helmets to be worn in the event of a tornado. And McCurdy said HMC was glad to make this donation.“It’s important to partner with the schools in the community, and this is one way we can give back,” she said.

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