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Disaster Preparedness

Introduction

Summer, winter, and year round, severe storms and extreme temperatures can disrupt routines and endanger lives. Learn what to expect and how best to protect yourself in weather emergencies.

Featured Topic: Extreme Heat

Heat Safety

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. NOAA National Weather Service statistical data shows that heat causes more fatalitiesSunset on a hot summer day per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined. Based on the 10-year average from 1994 to 2003, excessive heat claimed 237 lives each year. By contrast, floods killed 84; tornadoes, 58; lightning, 63; and hurricanes, 18.

In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago, Illinois area were attributed to this event, and in August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

North American summers are hot; most summers see heat waves in one section or another of the United States. East of the Rockies, they tend to combine both high temperature and high humidity although some of the worst have been catastrophically dry. Additional detail on how heat impacts the human body is provided under "The Hazards of Excessive Heat" heading.

How Forecasters Decide Whether to Issue Excessive Heat Products

NOAA's heat alert procedures are based mainly on Heat Index Values. The "Heat Index", sometimes referred to as the "apparent temperature" and given in degrees Fahrenheit, is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.

To find the heat index, look at the Heat Index Chart. As an example, if the air
temperature is 96°F (found on the top of the table) and the relative
humidity is 65% (found on the left of the table), the heat index-or how
hot it really feels-is 121°F. This is at the intersection of the 96°
column and the 65% row. The National Weather Service will initiate alert procedures when the Heat Index is expected to exceed 105°- 110°F (depending on local climate) for at least two consecutive days.

IMPORTANT: Since heat index values were devised for shady, light wind conditions, EXPOSURE TO FULL SUNSHINE CAN INCREASE HEAT INDEX VALUES BY UP TO 15°F. Also, STRONG WINDS, PARTICULARLY WITH VERY HOT, DRY AIR, CAN BE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS.

Note on the Heat Index Chart shaded zone above 105°F. This corresponds to a level that may cause increasingly severe heat disorders with continued exposure and/or physical activity.

Child Safety Tips

  • Check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment (child safety seat and safety belt buckles) aren't too hot when securing your child in a safety restraint system in a car that has parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks -- even at home -- and keep keys out of children's reach.
  • Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't overlook sleeping infants.

Heat Wave Safety Tips

  • Slow down - Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer- Lightweight light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires - Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids - Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Spend more time in air-conditioned places - Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot weather) in an air conditioned environment affords some protection.
  • Don't get too much sun - Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician

 

Know These Heat Disorder Symptoms

SUNBURN: Redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever, headaches. First Aid: Ointments for mild cases if blisters appear and do not break. If Example of a severe sunburnbreaking occurs, apply dry sterile dressing. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by physician.

HEAT CRAMPS: Painful spasms usually in muscles of legs and abdomen possible. Heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles, or gentle massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use.

HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating, weakness, skin cold, pale and clammy. Pulse thready. Normal temperature possible. Fainting and vomiting. First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Lay down and loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue use. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F or higher). Hot dry skin. Rapid and strong pulse. Possible unconsciousness. First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. Move the victim to a cooler environment Reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do not give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

*For more information contact your local American Red Cross Chapter. Ask to enroll in a first aid course.