Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation slows and the body must work even harder to maintain a normal temperature. In a typical year, approximately 702 Americans succumb to the demands of extreme heat.
Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for their 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 from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than those living in rural areas. Asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures.
A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don’t take the proper precautions. As such, consider this guidance to prepare for extreme heat.
Before Extreme Heat
To prepare for extreme heat, do the following:
• Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
• Install window air conditioners. Make sure they fit snugly and insulate them if 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.
• Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
• Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80%.)
• Keep storm windows up all year.
• Listen to local weather forecasts so you can be 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 a prolonged heat wave than are people living in rural areas.
• Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
During Extreme Heat
What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
• Listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service.
• Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
• Stay indoors as much as possible.
• Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
• Postpone 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 evaporation rate of perspiration.
• Eat well-balanced 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. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, who are on fluid-restricted diets or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
• Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages.
• Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight and brightly-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors, because they absorb the sun’s rays.
• Protect your face and head from sun exposure 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.
• 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.
Know the Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme heat hazard:
• Heat wave—This is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
• Heat index—This number explains how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to ful sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Heat cramps—This refers to muscular pains due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe heat-related illness, they are often the first signal that your body is having trouble with the heat.
• Heat exhaustion—This condition typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
• Heat stroke—This is a life-threatening condition in which the victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. A victim of heat stroke’s body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if their body is not cooled quickly.
• Excessive heat watch—Such a watch occurs when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local excessive heat warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
• Heat advisory—This occurs when heat index values are forecast to meet locally defined advisory criteria for one to two days (e.g., when daytime highs reach 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit).
• Excessive heat warning—Such a warning occurs when heat index values are forecast to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least two days (e.g., when daytime highs reach 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit).
Midwest Insurance Group, LLC is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when a heat wave strikes. For additional risk management guidance, contact us today.