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Extreme Heat Safety

Extreme heat safety is especially important when extreme heat pushes the human body beyond its limits.  In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.  

Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition.  Older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to succumb to extreme heat.

Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.  Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk for effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas.  Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the ‘urban heat island effect’.

A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat and is often accomplished by high humidity.  These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for humans who don’t take the proper precautions.

before extreme heat

To prepare fo extreme heat, you should:

  • Begin preparing by building an emergency kit and making a family communications plan
  • Install window air conditioners snugly and insulate when necessary
  • Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation
  • Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard to reflect heat back outside
  • Weatherstrip doors and sills to keep cool air in
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awning or louvers
  • Keep storm windows up all year
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes
  • Know those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight.  They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • Be aware that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas
  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies

What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Listen to the radio for critical updates
  • Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun
  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available
  • Postpose outdoor games and activities
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities.  Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation.
  • Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals.  Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.  Avoid drinks with caffeine.  Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease are on fluid-restricted diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.  Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day.  Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat.

first aid for heat-induced illnesses

Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illnesses.  The following table lists these illnesses, their symptoms, and their first aid treatment.


Symptoms – skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, and headaches

First Aid – take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.  Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters and get medical attention.

Heat Cramps

Symptoms – painful spasms usually in leg and abdominal muscles and heavy sweating

First Aid – Get the victim to a cooler location. Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.  GIve sups of up to a half of glass of cool water every 15 minutes.  Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.  Discontinue liquids if the victim is nauseated.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms – heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale or flushed, weak pulse, normal body temperature is possible but the temperature will likely rise, fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are all possible signs

First Aid – Get the victim to lie down in a cool place

Even if you feel you live in a community with a low risk of flooding, remember that anywhere it rains, it can flood.  Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t mean you will not in the future.  Flood risk isn’t just based on history, it’s also based on a number of factors including rainfall, topography, flood-control measures, river-flow / tidal-surge data, and changes due to new construction and development.

Heart Stroke (aka Severe Medical Emergency)

Symptoms – High body temperature (105+), hot, red and dry skin, rapid, weak pulse, rapid shallow breathing, no sweat unless the victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity and possible unconsciousness

First Aid – Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services or get the victim to a hospital immediately.  Delay can be fatal.  Move the victim to a cooler environment, remove clothing and wet a sheet or piece of clothing with cool water and place it on the victim and use fans and air conditioners to cool down the victim.  Watch for breathing problems and use extreme caution.

To prepare for a flood, you should:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Avoid building in a floodplain unless you elevate and reinforce your home.
  • Elevate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
  • Consider installing ‘check valves’ to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • If feasible, construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproofing compounds.


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