Tag: heat wave

Heat Danger Threatening Us Here Over the Weekend

Young man standing in water fountain to avoid danger
Is this an option for you?

Yesterday morning our neighborhood emergency response team was asked to set up cones and direct traffic for a drive-through food-distribution program scheduled for next Monday. It’s an important event in our community.

Of course, our team members are all senior citizens, so the first thing I did was to check the weather forecast. (The last time we were asked to help it was pouring rain!)

And here’s the danger that popped out at me immediately, from The Weather Service:

EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING for Southwestern California Friday 11 a.m. through Monday 9 p.m.

That means a heat wave will be starting at just about the time this Advisory arrives in your email box on Friday! And it will continue right through the mid-day Monday hours that the food distribution program was scheduled for!

What’s the news about heat-related deaths?

Now, earlier this week I read an interesting article that suggested that heat-related deaths in the U.S. are down because of the Coronavirus!  Why?  People are staying inside more! Today, however, coronavirus just wasn’t on my mind. I was worried about the danger of extremely high temperatures.

You may recall that I wrote about summer heat just a couple of weeks ago. This week, I was obliged to dig a bit deeper. Here are the highlights of what I found – and what I will be sharing later today with my neighbors!

Heat danger is clear for senior citizens.

  • Heat deaths in the U.S. are generally trending down, because more people are getting air conditioning.
  • On average, though, heat is the leading cause of death from natural weather or environmental events — between 700 and 1,000 deaths a year. (“On average” doesn’t mean “everywhere.”)
  • The people most at risk? You might have guessed this: crop workers in California, Arizona and Texas, athletes (and fans) who insist on performing even in the heat, and people over 65.

Well, that last one was what I was looking for.

If you are over 65, or if you know someone over 65, here are steps to take to protect yourself from the danger of extreme heat.

I hope this is all review for you! But it may not be for some of your older friends or family members, so please read it with them in mind.

Level 1. (You should already know these.)
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Stay out of the sun. If you must go out, wear sunscreen, a hat, and dark glasses.
  • Pace yourself; avoid strenuous activity altogether.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep the house dark; close curtains, reflect sunlight.
  • Eat light meals. (Save on electricity, too, by not cooking.)
Level 2. (These should sound at least familiar if you read that earlier Advisory.)
  • If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, do some research now to find a heat-relief center. If necessary, head for the library or even a mall for a few hours.
  • Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, skin that feels cool and moist, and muscle cramps. If you experience them, take action immediately to cool off: get into the shade, apply cool wet clothes, drink cool water.
  • Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be deadly. If the victim vomits or can’t drink, call 911. Other symptoms of heat stroke: the skin is dry and hot (no sweat); victim is confused, may see double. Have the person lie down; try to cool them down.
 Level 3. For people with medical conditions.
  • If you are on water pills, find out from your doctor how much water you can drink when it’s hot.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks and very cold drinks. Alcohol is dehydrating; cold can cause stomach cramps.
  • If you are on a low salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease, check with your doctor before drinking sports drinks. (They replace important lost electrolytes, but they are high in sugar and salt.)
  • Some common medicines can INCREASE the risk of heat-related death because they interfere with sweating! They include antipsychotics, major tranquilizers, antidepressants, antihistamines, drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and some over-the-counter sleep medications.  Check with your doctor!
One last bit of information concerns the use of fans.

As you know, fans are cheaper to run than air conditioners, and they can make a significant difference in your comfort as long as the air temperature is still reasonable.

(Here’s a random but current illustration of a situation where fans won’t make much of a difference.  Two weeks ago (July 28), temperatures in Baghdad (Iraq) hit 125.2. It was the 4th day in a row they had topped 120 degrees!)

So, to sum up, before you experience extraordinary hot weather . . .

Check your home to close off leaks and figure out how to keep the sun out. Stock up on water. Postpone errands. Find out where a cooling shelter is located if you need it.

Consider getting a fan. A fan can make the air feel 4 degrees cooler just by evaporating your sweat!

The tiny 3 inch “personal” fans, while convenient, really don’t have much cooling power. But you can move a simple 8 in. table fan like the one pictured below with you from room to room. (It has to be blowing ON you, of course!) If you have air conditioning, you may want to get an 18-20 inch floor fan, often labeled “industrial.” Run in conjunction with the air conditioning, it can have a major cooling effect. (We have an old fan, very powerful. When the A/C goes on, we use that fan to spread cool air from the floor vents. Really works . . . but it is super noisy.)

Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator Fan Black

If you have friends over 65, plan to check on them every day during a heat wave, and not just once. Older people’s bodies don’t respond to extremes. As mentioned above, they may take medicines that interact negatively with heat. And if they live alone, they may simply not notice changes that are taking place until it’s too late. Check on them!

Oh, to go back to the very first part of the story? We postponed the drive-thru food pick-up to avoid the possible danger for our volunteers — and to protect our senior neighbors from coming out, too. And our team members will be checking on them.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. What with all the changes going on with policing, the deliberate delays in postal service, and, of course, the pandemic, some of our neighbors are feeling less secure. Our next Advisory will be addressing the topic of home security. (Be sure to sign up so you don’t miss it.)