Severe heat waves are not merely a nuisance and a boon for the power company. Extreme heat can cause heat stroke—a serious medical condition that can be deadly, especially for the very young and the elderly. Some summers, such as the summer of 2006, bring on extremely severe temperature highs that can damage buildings and roads and even kill.
The old adage: “It’s the heat, not the humidity” proves to be very true in a heat wave. Humidity is debilitating because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from skin since the surrounding air already contains so much moisture. This is a big reason why air conditioning feels so good…because it reduces the level of humidity.
To manage a heat wave, it’s important to help your body stay cool. One of the best ways to do this is to limit outdoor activities.
Tips for keeping cool in the summer sun:
- Wear sunscreen, even on overcast days. If your skin gets red from too much heat, you are suffering from sunburn, which will leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable and can lead to permanent damage to the skin.
- Drink plenty of cold liquids, avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can actually dehydrate instead of hydrate you.
- Shade is your friend. Shady areas can be up to 15 degrees cooler than their sunny counterparts, and will help regulate your body temperature.
- Take it easy! The middle of a heat wave is the not the ideal time to take up jogging or another form of strenuous outdoor activity.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothing to allow your body to expel excess heat. Some people have a difficult time monitoring their own body temperature and might tend to overdress for the conditions.
- Eat small meals. It’s necessary for your core temperature to rises in order to digest big meals. Focus on frequency instead of quantity.
Identify and manage heat stroke:
- Body temperatures measure over 105.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dry skin, rapid pulse and disorientation are all symptoms.
- For severe cases, immersion in cool (but not cold) water is recommended.
- Hydration is very important, including use of either cool water or intravenous fluids if the victim is unable to drink.
- To stave off heat stroke, drink before you start to feel thirsty.
- Administer first aid to heat stroke victims until their temperature falls in a safe range (101-102 degrees).
Help your family to beat the heat:
- Get out of the city! Urban areas are heat islands, where the temperatures remain warm even throughout the night. Cities also trap pollutants during heat waves. So plan a trip to a more rural area to escape summer crowds and heat.
- If you travel to a warm climate, make sure your accommodations and vehicle feature air conditioning.
- If your home does not have an air conditioning unit, consider going somewhere during the hottest part of the afternoon. Shopping malls, movie theaters and public libraries are all cool summer destinations.
- Ceiling fans and standing fans don’t technically lower the temperature of a room, but they do create a “wind chill” effect where the body cools itself with a nice breeze.
If you are a building owner:
- Test your air conditioning system to be sure it can handle the strain of prolonged usage. Clean filters will help the system run at optimal efficiency.
- Implement the use of compact fluorescent bulbs instead of the heat-producing incandescent variety.
- Consider adding inexpensive shade structure or fabric to cool outdoor patio areas.
- When it’s time for new windows, install the tinted variety, which can drastically reduce the heat coming into a building.
Unlike other disasters, you can’t see the heat wave—you can just feel it. However, as with other disasters, preparation and common sense are your best tools for safely managing a heat wave. Keep a close eye on children and other loved ones to be sure they have ready access to resources and helpful information.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.