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Flash Flood Safety

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Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Under normal conditions, the body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition. The elderly, 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. Also, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures known as the "urban heat island effect."

What to do before an extreme heat emergency

1. Know the terms associated with extreme heat:

• Heat wave­—Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.

• Heat index—A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.

• Heat cramps—Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.

• Heat exhaustion—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—Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim’s 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.

• Sun stroke—Another term for heat stroke.

2. Consider the following preparedness measures when faced with the possibility of extreme heat.

• Install window air conditioners snugly, insulate if necessary.

• Close any floor heat registers nearby and use a circulating or box fan to spread cool air.

• Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.

• Install temporary reflectors, such as aluminum foil covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside and be sure to 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 percent. Consider keeping storm windows up all year.


What to do during extreme heat or a heat wave emergency

1. Stay indoors as much as possible.

• If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.

• Remember that electric fans do not cool, they just blow hot air around.

2. Eat well-balanced, light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

3. Drink plenty of water regularly even if you do not feel thirsty.

• Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid-restrictive diets, or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

4. Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.

• Although beer and alcoholic beverages appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause further body dehydration.

5. Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.

6. Dress in loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible.

• Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature.

7. Protect face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

8. Avoid too much sunshine.

• Sunburn slows the skin’s ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating (i.e., 15 or greater).

9. Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.

10. Spend at least two hours per day in an air-conditioned place. If your home is not air conditioned, consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and other community facilities.

  1. Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.

First-aid for heat-induced illnesses

1. Sunburn

Symptoms: Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches.

First Aid: Take a shower, using soap, to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally. If blisters occur, apply dry, sterile dressings and get medical attention.

2. Heat cramps

Symptoms: Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles. Heavy sweating.

First Aid: Get the victim out to a cooler location. Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasm. Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol. If nauseous, discontinue liquids.

3. Heat exhaustion

Symptoms: Heavy sweating and skin may be cool, pale or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, exhaustion and headaches are possible.

First Aid: Get victim to lie down in a cool place. Loosen or remove clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place. Give sips of water if victim is conscious. Be sure water is consumed slowly. Give half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. If nausea occurs, discontinue. If vomiting occurs, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Heat stroke (sun stroke)

Symptoms: High body temperature
(105+). Hot, red, dry skin. Rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Possible unconsciousness. Victim will likely not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity.

First Aid: Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or emergency medical services or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal. Move victim to a cooler environment. Remove clothing. Try a cool bath, sponging or wet sheet to reduce body temperature. Watch for breathing problems. Use extreme caution. Use fans and air conditioners.