Author’s Note: With historically hot weather patterns, even though we have addressed heat preparedness before, it is time to review and increase our attention to preparing for excessive heat.
Temperatures are soaring throughout the world. In Canada, an unusually stifling heat wave is blanketing much of the country, temperatures have broken multiple records. The heat has helped set the stage for unprecedented, early wildfires already burning an area about 15 times bigger than average for this time of the year and sending hazardous smoke into the United States.
Several all-time heat records were broken earlier this month in Siberia, as temperatures reached above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Central America and Puerto Rico experienced extreme heat in June. Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, all of the gulf states and most of the east coast are also facing blistering temperatures this summer. Officials in the UK report the overall average and the average maximum temperatures for 2023 are the highest on record.
Southeast Asia has experienced their highest heat wave on record, and temperatures in China have killed animals and crops and sparked concerns about food security.
Following are a few steps you can take to help make a summer power outage or heat wave a little more bearable:
- It’s O.K. to raid your Emergency kits… That’s right, Five Day Kits are not just for earthquakes and hurricanes but for any emergency. Your kit should include Instant Cold Packs. Place them on the neck or forehead for the best results. Mylar Blankets placed to cover the sunniest windows will cut down on the heat entering your home. Move the mylar blankets as the sun moves or just leave them in place. These blankets are also large enough to cover a sliding door without piecing. You will be amazed at how quickly the temperature in a room will drop when you cover your windows. You can also use aluminum foil however, you can see thru a mylar blanket but not foil. Mylar blankets are also great to use outdoors to create shade as they reflect the sun’s rays. If you don’t have mylar blankets get them now. If the power fails or temperatures soar you will be able to keep your home cool longer. If the power should fail don’t forget about the glow sticks in your kits to provide a night light in bathrooms and hallways.
- Create shade. Remember not only do the sun’s rays create heat in your home but so do all those hard surface areas such as patios, walkways, and driveways. As these heat up during the day, the heat they emit, even after the sun goes down, raises the temperature in your home. Shade those areas to keep your hard surfaces cool.
- Get wet. Take a shower and don’t dry your hair, take a dip in the pool and don’t dry off (if the pool is in the sun don’t stay in too long), run through a sprinkler, keep a spray bottle nearby and mist your face (also great for your complexion), use wet compresses on your neck or head, keep a wet washcloth by your bed to cool yourself through the night, wrap your head in a wet bandanna, or soak your feet.
- Drink lots of water, lemonade, or juices, but never anything with caffeine or alcohol as these will raise your body temperature. Sodas will only increase your thirst. Popsicles are also a great way to stay hydrated, eat them first during a power outage before they defrost. If you are thirsty, you have waited too long to drink.
- Eat cold foods. This is the time to eat sandwiches, salads and other foods that are not heated. Avoid large portions of protein foods as they will increase body temperature. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Create smoothies loaded with fruits and veggies.
- Cook outdoors if you feel you must have a hot meal. Keep blinds and curtains closed. Crock pot meals are great if you are dealing with 100 degrees plus weather but you still have power. You don’t want to be cooking and getting the house heated so make a crock pot meal but plug in the crock pot on the patio keeping the heat outside.
- Move activities, including eating and sleeping, to the coolest room in the house. This will normally be on the lowest level of your home and in a room with an exposure that does not receive direct sunlight.
- This is one time when you shouldn’t be concerned with how much television the family watches. Play board games or read, but don’t be too active. Choose TV shows that will also educate or expose children to classics. Crafting is a perfect hot weather activity. Use this time to make Christmas gifts.
- Place your outdoor umbrellas outside the windows receiving direct sun. Outdoor canopies, tarps, and dining flies also work well.
- Wear loose, light colored clothing.
- Sit next to a battery powered fan. Remember fans do not cool the air, they only move it so don’t leave them running when you leave the room. You become cooler as the moisture on your skin evaporates. This is the reason you want to stay wet!
- Skip the outdoor exercise routine and working outside.
- Go Shopping! No kidding. Go to the grocery store or mall and window shop. Taking in a movie or bowling are also “cool” pastimes if those businesses have power.
- The elderly, young children, pregnant women, and those taking diuretics are most vulnerable to heat related emergencies. If a member of your family is taking any medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist to determine if they are more susceptible to the effects of the heat.
- Check on housebound and elderly – neighbors and friends – and get them to a cooling center. Be sure there is a plan for their care when the cooling center closes. Many centers close for the night. Nighttime can be the most dangerous time of the day. We assume the temperature will be lower at night, but this is not always the case – especially in the city. All the roads and sidewalks retain heat during the day and as they release it at night the temperature remains high. Same thing for suburban congestion – several homes on an acre of land with homes just a few feet from each other is a bad idea.
- Visit a friend or relative out of town. The temperature in the city is usually several degrees higher than the temperature in a country setting.
- Watch for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- When it cools down at night, if it cools down, open all the windows. Close them again mid-morning as it starts to heat up.
- Never leave children or pets in a parked car, even with the windows open. The temperature in a car, with the windows open, can reach 120º F within a few minutes.
- If you are stranded in your car, place mylar blankets on the roof and over the windshield and rear window, on the outside of the car. Weigh blankets down with rocks or anything you have on hand. You can also secure them by closing them into the door. Keep the windows open. The mylar blankets will reflect the sun, greatly reducing the heat. Be sure to always have several of these mylar blankets in car kits.
- Remember your pets. Bring pets inside or place them in a shaded area that catches breezes. Be sure they have plenty of water available for them to drink and hose them down regularly. Pets should be hosed down with room temperature, not cold, water.
- If you need to go outside, wear a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen.
Find a cooling center by calling the police department or fire department.
Heat-related emergencies are very serious. Add a power outage and the results are deadly. Protect yourself now by accumulating items that will help you get through the emergency and learn how to use them. Teach your family members the dangers and warning signs for medical emergencies now.
Clip the following and post in your home and car and add to your preparedness binder and Five Day Kits:
Know the signs: (Note all of this information is included in your Totally Ready Binder. If you don’t already own the eBook with the binder you can purchase sections and build your binder over time. Remember, when the power fails your only resources will be those you have in hard copy form)
Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscle pains and spasms due to heavy exertion and dehydration. Although heat cramps are the least severe of heat related illnesses, they are often the first signal that the body is in trouble.
Heat Exhaustion: Someone suffering from heat exhaustion will have cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; sweat heavily; have a headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and general exhaustion. Body temperature may be normal or may be rising.
Heat stroke: Someone suffering from heat stroke will have hot, red skin; lapse of consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Their body temperature may be very high, as high as 105 degrees F. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry. If any of these symptoms are present call your doctor or hospital for treatment directions. If you have any doubt, call for help.
Heat cramps: Get the person to a cooler place and have him/her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids. Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can cause further dehydration, making conditions worse.
Heat exhaustion: Get the person out of the heat and into a cooler place. Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan. Cool them down as quickly as possible. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. If the person is conscious, give cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Give a half glass of cool, not cold water every 15 minutes. Do not give them aspirin or other medications. Let the victim rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in their condition.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. Help is needed fast. Call 911 or your local emergency number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Immerse victim in a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Place victim in front of an open window or fan. Never leave a victim alone. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water, is vomiting, or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.
Know the signs for pets:
Pet owners need to recognize the symptoms of heat stress in animals. Watch for heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, and vomiting.
Treatment: Until you can get medical help, move the animal into a cool area, apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck and chest or immerse the animal in cool water. Get the pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Be sure to copy this article for your preparedness binder.
Please let Carolyn know if you have any preparedness challenges she can help you with by messaging her on her Facebook page or commenting here or on her blog. If you would like to serve disaster survivors, please visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook or the Totally Ready blog at Totallyready.com