Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond
its limits. 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.
Older adults, 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.”
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme heat hazard:
Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
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.
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.
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.
A life-threatening condition. 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.
Another term for heat stroke.
To prepare for extreme
heat, you should:
- Install window air conditioners
snugly; insulate if necessary.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for
- Install temporary window reflectors
(for use between windows and drapes),
such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to
reflect heat back outside.
- 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.)
- Keep storm windows up all year.
During a Heat Emergency
The following are guidelines for what you
should do if the weather is extremely
- Stay indoors as much as possible
and limit exposure to the sun.
- Stay on the lowest floor out of the
sunshine if air conditioning is not
- Consider spending the warmest part
of the day in public buildings such
as libraries, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls,
and other community facilities. Circulating
air can cool the body by increasing
the perspiration rate of evaporation.
- Eat well-balanced, light, and regular
meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless
directed to do so by a physician.
- Drink plenty of water. Persons who
have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or
liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or
have a problem with fluid retention
should consult a doctor before increasing liquid
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight,
and light-colored clothes that cover
as much skin as possible.
- Protect face and head by wearing a
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors
who do not have air conditioning and
who spend much of their time alone.
- Never leave children or pets alone
in closed vehicles.
- Avoid strenuous work during the warmest
part of the day. Use a buddy system
when working in extreme heat, and take frequent
Aid for Heat-Induced Illnesses
Extreme heat brings with it the possibility
of heat-induced illnesses.
Skin redness and pain, possible
swelling, blisters, fever, headaches.
- Take a shower using soap to
remove oils that may block pores, preventing
the body from cooling naturally.
- Apply dry, sterile dressings to any
blisters, and get medical attention.
Painful spasms, usually
in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy
- Get the victim to a cooler location.
- Lightly stretch and gently massage
muscles to relieve spasms.
- Give sips of up to a half glass of
cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not
give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)
- Discontinue liquids, if victim is
Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale,
or flushed. Weak
pulse. Normal body temperature is possible,
will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness,
nausea, vomiting, exhaustion,
and headaches are possible.
- Get victim to lie down in a
- Loosen or remove clothing.
- Apply cool, wet cloths.
- Fan or move victim to air-conditioned
- Give sips of water if victim is conscious.
- Be sure water is consumed slowly.
- Give half glass of cool water every
- Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.
- Seek immediate medical attention if
Heat Stroke (a severe medical emergency)
High body temperature (105+); hot, red,
dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid,
breathing. Victim will probably not sweat
was sweating from recent strenuous activity.
- Call 9-1-1 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.
An emergency water shortage can be caused
by prolonged drought, poor water
supply management, or contamination
of a surface water supply source or
Drought can affect vast
territorial regions and large population
numbers. Drought also creates environmental
conditions that increase the risk of other
hazards such as
fire, flash flood, and possible landslides
and debris flow.
Conserving water means more water available
for critical needs for everyone. Appendix
A contains detailed suggestions for conserving
water both indoors and outdoors.
Make these practices a part of your daily
life and help preserve this essential
If you require more information about
any of these topics, the following resource
may be helpful.
Publications National Weather Service
Heat Wave: A Major
Summer Killer. An
online brochure describing the heat index,
disorders, and heat wave safety tips.
Available online at: NOAA - Heat Wave: A Major Summer Killer
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