Most people know that a heat wave can be dangerous, but not everyone knows how to prepare for one. In this article, you will learn what precautions to take in order to stay safe during this extreme weather event.
According to CNN, the top cause of weather-associated deaths in the country is heat. Last June 18, nationwide heat alerts covered over 25 million Americans. The week starting June 20 is expected to break heat records across several cities. Chicago is expected to reach 95 degrees. On June 21, St. Louis is expected to reach 100 degrees. On June 22, Raleigh, North Carolina is expected to also reach 100 degrees. Everyone must be prepared to deal with heat emergencies.
What is a Heat Wave?
A heat wave is an extended period of hot weather, typically several days. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a Heat Advisory if within the next 12 hours the temperature is forecasted to reach 100° or higher and will last for a minimum of two days. The NWS issues an Excessive Heat Warning if within the next 12 hours the temperature is forecasted to reach 105° or higher and will last for a minimum of two days. About three to seven days before the onset of such heat waves, the NWS issues an Excessive Heat Outlook so that people can prepare for it.
Why is a Heat Wave Dangerous?
Heat waves can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that heat waves cause more than 600 deaths in the United States each year. The elderly, young children, people with chronic medical conditions, and those who work outdoors are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness.
There are two types of heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is caused by the body’s inability to cool itself. Signs and symptoms include heavy sweating, lightheadedness, and muscle cramps. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a more serious condition.
When someone shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, you should:
- Get them to a shady area and have them sit down.
- Remove their clothes and fan them.
- Spray them with cool water or give them a wet towel to cool off.
- Make sure they drink plenty of fluids.
Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises to 104° or higher. A person with heat stroke is usually not sweating. Signs and symptoms include confusion, seizure, and loss of consciousness. If you or someone you know has these signs or symptoms, call 911 immediately.
How to Prepare for a Heat Wave
Now that you know how dangerous a heat wave can be, you must be wondering what you can do to prepare for one. Here are some tips:
Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks. These can dehydrate you. If you choose fresh fruit juice, dilute it with water.
Stay indoors as much as possible. If you must go outside, wear loose, light-colored clothing. Loose clothing allows air to circulate around your body. Light-colored fabric does not absorb heat. Use a hat or an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
Avoid strenuous activity even indoors as these can increase your body temperature. Take cool showers or baths to lower your body temperature. Carry a water mister and regularly mist yourself with cool water.
Use fans and air conditioners to stay cool. Ensure that you have access to a fan and AC repair service that responds immediately in case these appliances break down. If you do not have air conditioning, or while your air conditioner is under repair, go to a public place that does, such as a library or shopping mall.
Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or have chronic medical conditions. Offer to take them to an air-conditioned place if they do not have air conditioning.
Never leave children or pets alone in a car, even for a short time. The temperature in a vehicle can rise quickly to life-threatening levels.
If your power goes out, call your electric company immediately. Do not use generators or other gasoline-powered engines indoors as they give off carbon monoxide, which is deadly.
Be Ready for the Heat
The summer heat can be brutal and if you’re not prepared, it can be dangerous or even deadly. Heat waves are periods of extremely hot weather that last for several days and can reach temperatures of 100 degrees or more. While the most vulnerable are the elderly, young children, people with chronic medical conditions, and those who work outdoors, no one is exempted from danger. By following these tips, you can keep yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors safe.