Are you ready for a Heatwave?
Information courtesy of:
American Red Cross
Federal Emergency Management Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Reprinted by Permission of the American Red Cross (1997)
Heres what you can do to prepare yourself and your
family for a Heatwave.
Know what these terms mean:
Heatwave: Prolonged period of excessive heat and humidity.
The National Weather Service steps up its procedures to
alert the public during these periods of excessive heat
Heat index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit that tells how
hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the
actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase
the heat index by 15 degrees F.
Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due
to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles
or legs. It is generally thought that the loss of water
from heavy sweating causes the cramps.
Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people
exercise heavily or work in a warm 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 victims condition will worsen. Body temperature
will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victims
temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool
the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so
high that brain damage and death may result if the body
is not cooled quickly.
Sunstroke: Another term for heat stroke.
If a Heatwave is predicted or happening:
Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous
activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which
is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is
not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine.
Remember, electric fans do not cool the air, but they do
help sweat evaporate, which cools your body.
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will
reflect away some of the suns energy.
Drink plenty of water regularly and often. Your body needs
water to keep cool.
Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.
Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can
make you feel good briefly, but make the heats effects
on your body worse. This is specially true about beer, which
actually dehydrates the body.
Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are
high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
Signals of Heat emergencies:
Heat exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy
sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion.
Body temperature will be near normal.
Heat stroke: Hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid,
weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature
can be very high - sometimes as high as 105 degrees F. If
the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin
may be wet; otherwise it will feel dry.
Treatment of Heat emergencies:
Heat cramps: Get the person to a cooler place and have him
or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the
affected muscle and replenish fluids. Give a half glass
of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with
alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions
Heat exhaustion: Get the person out of the heat and into
a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply
cool, wet clothes, such as towels or sheets. If the person
is conscious, give cool water to drink. Make sure the person
drinks slowly. Give a half glass of cool water every 15
minutes. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine.
Let the victim rest in a comfortable position, and watch
carefully for changes in his or her condition.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation.
Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency
number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool
the body. Immerse victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets
around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing
problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool
the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water, is
vomiting, or there are changes in the level of consciousness,
do not give anything to eat or drink.
Heat can affect anyone. However, it is more likely to affect
young children, elderly people, and people with health problems.
For instance, people with a medical condition that causes
poor blood circulation, and those who take medications to
get rid of water from the body (diuretics) or for certain
skin conditions may be more susceptible. Consult with a
physician if you have any questions about how your medication
may affect your ability to tolerate heat.
Be prepared for heat emergencies by having various members
of the family do the activities on the checklist below.
Then get together to discuss and finalize your Family Disaster
Discuss what each member of the family would do during a heatwave.
Where are the safest and coolest places to be: at home?...at
work?... at school?...and other places where you may go?
Coolest place at home:__________________________________
If your home does not have air conditioning, choose other
places you can go to get relief from the heat during the warmest
part of the day.
Cool places to go to avoid heat:__________________________
Plan changes in your daily activities that would be needed
to avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day.
Changes to daily activities:______________________________
Plan to wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Some family members may be taking medications or have medical
conditions that may cause poor blood circulation or reduced
ability to tolerate heat. Discuss these concerns with a physician.
Physicians special recommendations:______________________
Take an American Red Cross first aid course to learn how to
treat heat emergencies and other emergencies.
Household member(s) trained in first aid:__________________
Certifications good through:_____________________________
when a heat wave, thunderstorm, tornado,
earthquake, flood, fire, or other emergency happens in your
community, you can count on your local American Red Cross
chapter to help you and your family. Thats been our
role for more than 100 years.