Surviving the Dog Days of Summer

Red Cross, reports that “In recent years, excessive heat has… (…)
As we continue through the dog days of summer, when heat and humidity seem to peak, healthcare organizations need to take into consideration the extreme heat and its potential to be deadly for clients and patients.
 
Information from the Red Cross, states that “In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally, 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity.”
 
In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body. Remember that:
  • Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.
 
You will likely hear weather forecasters use these terms when a heat wave is predicted in your community:
  • Excessive Heat Watch – 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 – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs= 100-105° Fahrenheit).
  • Excessive Heat Warning – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs= 105-110° Fahrenheit).

The Smart Way to Plan For Extreme Heat Preparedness

When planning for your facilities take into consideration the following precautions:
 
  • Listen to an NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Never leave children, anyone who is sick, or elderly alone in a vehicle, even for just a few minutes without air conditioning.
  • Ensure clients/patients stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if they do not feel thirsty, and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Help patients/clients avoid extreme temperature changes, make sure that during a power outage of any type, you have alternate means of cooling for your facility or have plans in place to cool your clients/patients or evacuate them to a safe location.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Make sure to postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Check on clients and their families, who do not have coolers or air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
 
Watch for heat-related illnesses and know what actions to take for:
  • Heat cramps
    • Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs
    • Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
  • Heat exhaustion
    • Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting
    • Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
  • Heat stroke
    • Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness
    • Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
 
For more information on these conditions, please refer to the Red Cross website and download the “Heat Wave Safety Checklist.”
 
For extreme heat planning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed guidance for heat emergency preparation.
 
Additional guidance for Heat Emergency planning may be found at:
 
Do you need to adjust your emergency plan for extreme heat? Email us to find out what that entails.
Categories: Emergency Management

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