Heat waves are dangerous events that annually take more lives than all of the other natural disasters combined. While they aren’t as dramatic, or obviously threatening as a tornado, earthquake or hurricane, they are just as deadly. According to the EPA , there are several things that people can do to keep themselves safe during these sweltering and dangerous periods.
Technically, when the temperature reaches 90 degrees and stays there for several days, a heat wave is occurring. During these times, heat builds up inside homes and those that do not have adequate air conditioning, fans, shade, or ventilation, suffer. Seniors are especially susceptible to heat related deaths and it is recommended that anyone who knows someone who is living alone should check on them often during a heat wave.
Children can both take a lot of heat before they realize that they are in trouble. During heat waves, just like adults, their outside activities should be limited to early morning and evening hours. The hours between around 10 AM and 4 PM are generally the most dangerous. They should be reminded to drink a lot of water, and stay in shaded areas as much as possible. It should go without saying, but every year children die as a result of being left in a vehicle where the temperature can easily climb to well over 100 degrees. Neither children or pets should ever be left in a hot car, or for that matter, outside in the hot sun.
Adults should also limit outdoor activities to the cooler times of the day, and of course, drink plenty of fluids. The body dehydrates rapidly in extreme heat and the result is heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Those that work outside or those that are in the habit of exercising outside should use some common sense and take frequent rest breaks out of the sun, either in an air conditioned building or in the shade.
These extremely hot periods produce dry conditions very rapidly and these conditions can produce wild fires. During dry periods, extra care needs to be taken when building campfires, or when doing any kind of intentional burning. Many communities will issue bans on these activities when conditions become extreme.
Heat waves are silent killers that can produce conditions that may increase gradually. Safety is primarily a matter of common sense, knowing the dangers of heat, being aware of all the danger signs, and knowing how to prevent or treat the problem.