in this section
The sun. Image by the SOHO spacecraft, on Space.com
In the past:
A number of emergencies are related to extreme heat, especially blackouts (
when power plants are overloaded by air conditioner use),
problems like heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Extreme heat, or a heat wave, is generally defined as a "prolonged period of excessive heat." More specifically, if temperatures hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for a period of at least three days, it's a heat wave. Heat waves are also usually accompanied by high humidity.
The "heat index" is an estimate of the temperature the body feels due to the
combined effects of heat and humidity. Direct sunlight can raise the heat index
up by 15 degrees.
Risk to Tompkins County residents:
Tompkins County has not had a major heat wave recently, but this does not
mean we never will. Extreme heat is always a possibility, anywhere in the world. For
instance, on average, 1,000 people die from heat each year. In the 1995 July
that hit Chicago, over 700 people died from heat.
Measuring extreme heat and "heat wave" depends on where you live. "Extreme
the Alaskan tundra would probably register as "unusually
cold" in the Arizona desert. In Tompkins County's summer, an extreme heat
incident would need to be temperatures well into the 90-100 degree (F) range
-- and staying there -- for more than a few days.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are
three serious health risks related to heat:
- Heat cramps are pains or spasms in muscles due to overexertion in high heat, and may be the first sign that your body is having trouble coping with the temperature.
- Heat exhaustion is caused by the body's "overdrive" efforts to cool itself: profuse sweating and increased blood flow to the skin robs vital organs of fluids and nutrients, creating a mild form of shock. If not properly treated, body temperature will continue to rise and the person may suffer heat stroke.
- Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which the body's cooling mechanism (sweating) gets so overworked that it actually shuts down. If not cooled quickly, the person's body temperature may rise so high that brain damage and death may result.
How to prepare:
- Stay Cool
- Know your risk! Some at-risk populations include:
- The elderly.
- Young children.
- Those who are sick.
- Those who are overweight.
- Men are at higher risk than women, as men tend to sweat more.
- Urban residents are at greater risk than rural residents.
- In extreme heat, it is best to stay out of the sun. If your home does not
have air conditioning, plan on trips to air-conditioned public buildings, like
the library or the mall, during the hottest part of the day.
- Avoid strenuous activity, especially during the hottest part of the day (generally the early afternoon).
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Drink lots of fluids. Dehydration is a serious risk in high heat.
- Remember to keep an eye on pets. If you have outdoor animals, consider bringing them inside, into air conditioning. At the very least, be sure they have shade and plenty of water to drink.
- Never leave pets or children alone in closed vehicles during the summer --
even when there's no heat wave! Temperatures inside a closed car can climb
to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius) within minutes.
Disaster Education Coalition - Guide to
heat-related safety and preparation.
Red Cross - advice on extreme heat.
FEMA - Extreme Heat
- Are you ready?
- During a Heat Emergency