Thursday, June 25, 2009

Heat Wave Survival

While the forces of nature generally take a backseat to the death and injuries caused by the ravages of war and the man-made hazards of automobiles, heat waves can sometimes rival the effects of many other natural hazards combined. Being able to survive the extreme temperatures of a heat wave can be a daunting task for people everywhere. Heat waves can strike any area of the country with devastating results that cause a huge loss of life. This includes places where cooler temperatures usually prevail and extremely high temperatures normally don’t happen very frequently. A properly working air conditioner can be a great way to “beat the heat” but if there is a rolling blackout due to strains on the public utility system there may be little or no power available. Plus many individuals do not have air conditioning systems, as they aren’t normally needed in most circumstances by a large number of people. There are some simple steps you can take to lessen the risks posed by a heat wave.

1.) Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Maintain adequate levels of hydration by drinking plenty of the proper types of fluids.

You need to drink more water than normal when it's hot. Thirst is one of the first signs of becoming dehydrated. You should drink adequate amounts of the proper fluids before you become thirsty in order to prevent dehydration. It may even be necessary to replace electrolytes lost by the body if you are sweating profusely.

2.) Eliminate additional sources of heat in your home.

Lights and appliances (such as dryers, stoves, and ovens) can create additional heat in your home that you don’t need. Use them only at night when temperatures are cooler to help avoid generating extra heat in your home.

3.) Avoid excess metabolic heat that is created by your body by eating light meals that require little or no preparation.

Eat fresh foods that do not require you to use the oven or stove in order to prepare your meals. Avoid high protein content meals that will raise metabolic levels and increase the body’s own heat levels. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages that can cause further dehydration.

4.) Make extensive use of fans to circulate the air in your home to reduce heat stress and lower your electrical consumption which may help to prevent a power blackout.

Attic fans, box fans, and even hand-held portable fans can all be used to effectively radiate heat away from your body and the inside of your home. At night when the temperatures are generally cooler, opening windows can be used along with fans to help cool your environment. Curtains, blinds and reflective coatings on windows can also be used to keep the temperatures cooler inside your home.

5.) Use the cooling effects of water to help keep your body from being stressed by the heat.

A wet towel on your head or a wet bandanna around your neck will create a “cooling” effect on your body. You could even take a cold shower!

6.) Stay indoors or find a shady spot outdoors, if at all possible, and avoid direct exposure to the sun’s heat.

Sometimes beating the heat is a simple matter of avoiding excess exposure to direct sunlight by finding a shady spot under a tree or staying inside until the evening hours when temperatures are generally cooler.

7.) If you do have to be outdoors, take plenty of breaks and drink plenty of fluids.

You may need to get out of the sun a while simply to give your body a chance to cool down naturally by itself using its own built-in cooling mechanisms.

8.) Wear loose fitting and light-colored clothing to help keep your body cool.

Your body needs to be able to radiate heat away from itself and tight or restrictive clothing may hamper this process. Dark colored clothing will also absorb additional heat.

9.) Be aware of special needs that require additional precautions to keep everyone safe.

Always notify your utility company if there is someone on a life support system that requires power. Heat waves may cause frequent rolling blackouts. If there is a planned loss of power to your area you can then take steps to provide emergency generator power or move them to a hospital if necessary until the heat wave is no longer a threat.

10.) Learn basic first aid and be able to recognize heat-related illnesses.

You will also need to be able to recognize the different symptoms of heat-related illnesses which create a real emergency situation during a heat wave that are caused by heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke and be prepared to call emergency services (911) in the event of a heat-related emergency. Work to help cool the person suffering from a heat-related illness until help can arrive.

You can check out the devastating effects of some of the more severe heat waves in the U.S. here:

Staying above the water line!



Anonymous said...

Darn!! this was going to be my next guest post! If nothing else,get a kiddie pool and relax in it! Or run thru the sprinkler!
Dean in az

HermitJim said...

Hey RE...thanks for the information, brother. Never hurts to remind folks of the simple steps that can possibly save your life!

Sometimes we get so carried away with other things, we forget about the basics!

Joseph said...

Don't forget, if you have one of those rolling blackouts, a portable phone at home won't work, and cell towers only will operate for about 6 hours if the power is out. Go and get yourself one of the old fashioned, corded handset type phones that plug into a wall; they are cheap and will work when the power is out (the phone system has an independent power supply).

Anonymous said...

Also want to remind people to look after your loved ones who have disabilities and are affected strongly when the heat rises. Heart conditions especially - when body is stressed, you have to remember to slow down.

I lost a good friend last summer when he was doing a good deed for a disabled neighbor who had a yard high with grass. My friend had a heart attack and died - all over a yard of grass. He was in shape too, a prison guard at the Cibolo prison here in south Texas. He was one of the guards who helped keep track of prison road crews, so he was used to working outside. He just over did it.

A link to keeping cool in summer - thanks Riverwalker - you have a great weekend.

riverwalker said...

To: HermitJim

A few basic reminders never hurt!


riverwalker said...

To: Joseph

Great point about the phone! Communication is always vital in an emergency. Thanks.


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 6:10

Pacing yourself is always important. No matter how well conditioned you think you may be, there is always the possibility of over doing an activity that will have disasterous results. Thanks for the insight and I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.


Lorrie said...

Great article...very informative. I find that drinking the bottled, flavored water is a good alternative to just drinking water from the tap. Gives a bit of flavor to add a little enjoyment and variety.

Anonymous said...

Remember,beer and coffee do not hydrate you! You'll actually reduce your water by drinking beer in the heat,if one were to be stupid enough to pait a house in Arizona in the summer...uhhhmm..Anyway,save the beer for later when you've cooled off,and this time of year it's nice enough to cook out on the grill,sharpen your camp cooking skill's and recipe's.
Most of you have probably never heard of an Evaporative cooler,or as we call them,swamp cooler's. It's basically a fan surrounded by water soaked pad's.The fan draw's air thru the pad's and evaporate's the water to cool it off.It keep's my place at 80 when it's over 100 or so outside. But it only work's if the humidity is under 50% or so.
I was told when I put in my new AC unit year's ago that I should get rid of the cooler,as the AC unit was more efficient,as to the power and water cost's. I found that hard to believe,so I kept it on.Having 2 dog's,I keep the door open more than closed.
Dean in Az

riverwalker said...

To: Dean in AZ

Need to save the cold brew for after you've cooled down.


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