Beat the Heat Before it Beats You!

Heat is often overlooked as a major threat; it just doesn’t cause the destruction like tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes do. But in reality, excessive heat is deadly, killing hundreds per year in the United States alone… more than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes and flooding.

Credit: TRAINUT via Flickr

Credit: TRAINUT via Flickr

Knowing the symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke can make the difference between life and death! This post will cover safety information and tips on how to prepare and survive extreme heat so you Know Before™!

Credit: Qfamily via Flickr

Credit: Qfamily via Flickr

Heat Alerts Defined

Heat Advisory is issued when the forecast calls for a heat index temperatures of at least 105 degrees but less than 115 degrees for less than 3 hours per day or overnight low temperatures above 80 degrees for 2 consecutive days.

An Excessive Heat Watch is issued when the forecast calls for at least 2 consecutive days of heat index temperatures of at least 105 degrees during the day combined with overnight low temperatures of 80 degrees or higher.

An Excessive Heat Warning is issued within 12 hours of the onset of heat index temperatures of at least 105 degrees for more than 3 hours per day for 2 consecutive days or more than 115 degrees for any period of time.

Credit: Mats Hagwall via Flickr

Credit: Mats Hagwall via Flickr

10 Facts on Heat You Should Know

  1. A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
  2. Excessive heat is defined as temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region during summer months, last for an extended period, and often are accompanied by high humidity.
  3. North American summers are hot; most summers see heat waves in one section or another of the United States. East of the Rockies, they tend to combine both high temperature and high humidity although some of the worst have been catastrophically dry.
  4. Despite the common perception that hurricanes and tornadoes are the most dangerous weather event, heat waves kill more Americans than any other type of natural disaster.
  5. In the 40-year period from 1936 through 1975, nearly 20,000 people were killed in the United States by the effects of heat and solar radiation.
  6. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Under normal conditions, the body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
  7. Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. Other conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality.
  8. Because men sweat more than women, men are more susceptible to heat illness because they become more quickly dehydrated.
  9. People living in urban areas are at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than people living in rural regions. Stagnant atmospheric conditions – including heat and moisture – trap pollutants, adding unhealthy air to excessively hot temperatures, which may then in aggravate health problems like asthma, especially for those with respiratory difficulties like asthma.
  10. Asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually releases heat at night, which produces significantly higher nighttime temperatures in urban areas known as the “urban heat island effect.”
Credit: The U.S. Army via Flickr

Credit: The U.S. Army via Flickr

 So What Can You Do BEFORE a heat wave?

You don’t need a survival kit or special plans, but there are some preparations you can make to help minimize your exposure.

  • Have your air conditioning system properly maintained to ensure it won’t fail on you. Replace the filters regularly.
  • Increase the insulation level of your home. Attic insulation will help keep your house cool.
  • Seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors to keep cool air in.
  • Install shades and drapes, especially on windows that receive morning and afternoon sun.
  • Install awnings outside windows to provide shade.
  • Leave your storm windows up for extra insulation.
  • Plant shade trees where their shadows will help keep your home cool. This is a long-term item that will help years from now.
  • Contact your neighbors to discuss preparation for heat waves and other disasters. Plan to contact each other every day during a heat wave to check that everyone is ok.
Credit: Pete Markham via Flickr

Credit: Pete Markham via Flickr – His dog Emmet looking to cool off!

What About DURING a heat wave?

The most important thing to do is stay cool and keep your body temperature down by:

  • Minimize your physical exertion
  • Drink more water than you think is necessary. You should urinate often as a sign that your body is fully hydrated.
  • Stay in cool, dry locations
  • If you must go outside, wear a wide-brim hat and sunscreen. Go outside early in the morning when it is coolest.
  • Spend the day in an air-conditioned mall, YMCA or library if your home does not have air conditioning.
  • Do not drink alcohol… it will dehydrate you!
  • Wear light-weight and light-colored clothing to help reflect the sun’s heat, reduce weight on your body, and aid in evaporation.
  • Watch for warning signs such as headache and weariness.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless instructed by your doctor.
  • Eat cool food, not hot, heavy meals such as tuna salad or chicken salad.
  • Be aware of your neighbors and check in with them periodically to make sure they are ok.
  • Don’t forget that pets are also effected by the heat and will need shade and extra water.
  • Never, never, never leave children, pets or elderly in a vehicle, whether or not there is a heat emergency.
  • Reduce electricity use so more is available for air conditioning. During high heat, a power failure can be catastrophic to a community.
  • Do not get sunburned. Sunburned skin is much less efficient at releasing heat from your body.
Credit: NWS via Facebook

Credit: NWS via Facebook

Hot Cars on Hot Days 

General Motors funded a study and found that a car parked in the sun on a 95°F degree day would have an inside temperature of over 120°F within 20 minutes. In 40 minutes, it would be over 150°F. This was a small car that had the air conditioning going before stopping.

Heatstroke occurs when a person’s core temperature reaches 105°F. The smaller the person, the more quickly the heat can raise their temperature, causing death. That means leaving your child in a carseat for even less than 20 minutes may kill the child – even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes, heatstroke is a possibility.

  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking that there will be no problem on cooler days. Cars are insulated ovens and even on moderately warm days can have an inside temperature 50 degrees or more higher than the outside in just a half hour.
  • Leaving the windows opened an inch won’t help either. Studies have shown that the temperature still soars and reaches deadly levels at nearly the same rate.

Love your kids enough to bring them with you from the car or leave another adult with them. And, love your pet enough to leave it home if you can’t leave someone with it in the car.

Credit: John Henderson via Flickr

Credit: John Henderson via Flickr

Additional Helpful Links:

Symptoms and First Aid tips for Heat by the NWS

WeatherBug Heat Wave tips

WeatherBug’s UV Index




This entry was posted in Heat, Safety.