Stay cool: Red Cross tips for heat wave safety

By Alana Mauger

It’s another hot one. According to the National Weather Service, our first summer heat wave is upon us and will continue at least through mid-week, with highs above 90 degrees, increasing humidity and heat index values nearing 100.

While many of us will take advantage of the summer rays to get in some pool and beach time, the American Red Cross wants you to be aware of the dangers excessive heat can bring. In fact, in recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events.

First, it’s important to listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.  Let’s start with some definitions.

  • A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average and often combined with excessive humidity.
  • Heat index is the way the temperature feels to the human body (air temperature + humidity).
  • An excessive heat watch means conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24-72 hours.
  • During a heat advisory, heat index values are forecast to reach daytime highs of 100-105 degrees for at least 2 days (105-110 degrees during an excessive heat warning.)

Next, get prepared.

  • Discuss heat safety precautions with your family and have a plan for wherever you spend time. If you don’t have air conditioning, identify places you can go for relief during the warmest parts of the day.
  • Check the contents of your emergency disaster kit in case a power outage occurs.
  • Identify and check in with people in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight, as they are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • Ensure that you animals have enough fresh water and shade.
  • Get trained in First Aid and download the Red Cross First Aid App to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Download the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety Checklist.

Finally, stay safe.

  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty, and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks and use the buddy system.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Check on your animals frequently.

Be Red Cross Ready and learn how to prepare for emergencies at

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