Hale Fire Protection District

Heat

With excessive heat, it is essential to consider ways to protect ourselves from the dangers of heat-related illnesses.

Heat and UV rays are important factors that significantly impact our daily lives. With excessive heat, it is essential to consider ways to protect ourselves from the dangers of heat-related illnesses. Heat waves, which are extended periods of abnormally hot weather, can have detrimental effects on our health and well-being. It is crucial to understand the precautions necessary to avoid heatstroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses during these extreme weather conditions. Heat safety strategies include staying hydrated, wearing appropriate clothing, staying indoors, and avoiding strenuous outdoor activities. UV rays from the sun can also pose a risk to our health, causing sunburn, skin cancer, and other health problems. Using sun protection methods such as wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and avoiding sunlight during peak UV radiation hours is crucial.

Heat Index / Heat Disorders

National Problem

Heat kills by taxing the human body beyond its abilities. In a normal year, about 175 Americans succumb to summer heat demands. Among the large continental family of natural hazards, only the cold of winter-not lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or earthquakes-takes a greater toll. In the 40-year period from 1936 through 1975, nearly 20,000 people were killed in the United
States by the effects of heat and solar radiation. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than
1,250 people died.

And these are the direct casualties. No one can know how many more deaths are advanced by heat wave weather-how many diseased or aging hearts surrender that under better conditions
would have continued functioning.

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

NOAA’s National Weather Service Heat Index Program

Considering this tragic death toll, the National Weather Service (NWS) has stepped up its efforts to alert more effectively the general public and
appropriate authorites to the hazards of heat waves-those prolonged excessive heat/humidity episodes.

Based on the latest research findings, the NWS has devised the “Heat Index” (HI), (sometimes referred to as the “apparent temperature”). The HI, given in degrees F, is an accurate measure of
how hot it really feels when relative humidity (RH) is added to the actual air temperature.

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

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

The “Heat Index vs. Heat Disorder” table (next to the HI chart) relates ranges of HI with specific disorders, particularly for people in higher risk
groups.

Heat exhaustion or Heat stroke

Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Elderly persons, small children, chronic invalids, those on certain medications or drugs (especially tranquilizers and anticholinergics), and persons with weight and alcohol problems are particularly susceptible to heat reactions, especially during heat waves in areas where a moderate climate usually prevails.

What You Should Do During Heatwaves

How Heat Affects the Body

Human bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation, by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, and-as the last extremity is reached-by panting, when blood is heated above 98.6 degrees. The heart begins to pump more blood, blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased flow, and the bundles of tiny capillaries threading through the upper layers of skin are put into operation. The body’s blood is circulated closer to the skin’s surface, and excess heat drains off into the cooler atmosphere. At the same time, water diffuses through the skin as perspiration. The skin handles about 90 percent of the body’s heat dissipating function.

Sweating, by itself, does nothing to cool the body, unless the water is removed by evaporation-and high relative humidity retards evaporation. The evaporation process itself works this way: the heat energy required to evaporate the sweat is extracted from the body, thereby cooling it. Under conditions of high temperature (above 90 degrees) and high relative humidity, the body is doing everything it can to maintain 98.6 degrees inside. The heart is pumping a torrent of blood through dilated circulatory vessels; the sweat glands are pouring liquid-including essential dissolved chemicals, like sodium and chlorideonto the surface of the skin.

Vulnerable Populations

Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. Heat can be very taxing on the body; check out the heat related illnesses that can occur with even a short period of exposure. Everyone can be vulnerable to heat, but some more so than others. According to The Impacts Of Climate Change On Human Health In The United States: A Scientific Assessment the following groups are particularly vulnerable to heat; check in with friends and relatives who fall in one of these populations, especially if they don’t have air conditioning.

  • Young children and infants are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness and death, as their bodies are less able to adapt to heat than are adults. 
  • Older adults, particularly those with pre existing diseases, take certain medications, are living alone or with limited mobility who are exposed to extreme heat can experience multiple adverse effects.
  • People with chronic medical conditions are more likely to have a serious health problem during a heat wave than healthy people.
  • Pregnant women are also at higher risk. Extreme heat events have been associated with adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality, as well as congenital cataracts.

It is NEVER safe to leave a child, disabled person or pet locked in a car, even in the winter. If you have a toddler in your household, lock your cars, even in your own driveway.  Kids play in cars or wander outside and get into a car and can die in 10 minutes! A reported 33 children died in hot cars in 2022. To see the latest information for 2023, go to this link. Deaths routinely are reported as early as April and tragedies continue into December in southern states.

heat vulnerable populations

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