The National Weather Service is emphasizing the dangers of heat exhaustion during this week’s “Summer Safety” campaign. Click to hear KMZU’s Jillian Molloy talk with Meteorologist Wes Browning.
Press Release from the National Weather Service:
JEFFERSON CITY – The State Emergency Management Agency, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the National Weather Service are promoting Missouri Summer Safety Week (June 19-25) to highlight the dangers caused by excessive heat and lightning. The goal of the summer weather safety campaign is to help keep people safe during the peak vacation and outdoor recreation season.
“Making sure that all Missourians are aware of the dangers involved with summer weather is a top priority,” said State Emergency Management Agency Director Paul D. Parmenter. “We already experienced temperatures in the mid 90s, and high humidity levels last week, and Missourians should pay attention to weather forecasts and be prepared to use caution when outdoors for the next 10 weeks, to help keep their families safe.”
In 2010, the Department of Health and Senior Services reported 17 heat-related deaths in Missouri, along with seven injuries and one death caused by lightning. June 19-25 is also National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
Missouri DHSS has created an interactive online tool to help Missourian locate public cooling centers close to their homes. The site is http://gis.dhss.mo.gov/Website/coolingCenter/coolingCenter.html. Users can enter a zip code, city or county, and instantaneously find cooling center nearby.
Missourians should become familiar with the terms used to identify heat hazards:
- Heat Wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
- Heat Index is 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.
- Heat Cramps are muscle 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.
- Heat Exhaustion 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.
- Heat Stroke is 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.
- Sun Stroke is another term for heat stroke.
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
- Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate spaces around the air condition for a tighter fit, if necessary.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- If you have central air conditioning, set the thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
- Change or clean your air-conditioning filter once a month.
- 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.
What to do during severe heat and heat emergencies:
- 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 available.
- 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 evaporation rate of perspiration. Call 211 for the nearest location of a cooling center.
- Use exhaust fans and dehumidifiers when needed.
- Eat light, well-balanced meals at regular intervals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Drink plenty of water. Individuals who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, are on fluid-restricted diets, or who have problems with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
- Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible.
- Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Wear sunscreen.
- 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 the buddy system when working in extreme heat; and take frequent breaks.
If your home is not air-conditioned, use moving air to try to beat the heat:
- Open all windows early in the morning to get rid of heat and help cool the home.
- Keep the house closed during the hottest part of the day. Check indoor and outdoor thermometers to make sure that the indoor temperature is still cooler than outside. Later, open up the house so the cooler night air can lower inside temperatures.
- Use floor and ceiling fans as much as possible to circulate a cooling breeze. Also use window fans if not using air conditioning.
- Sleep in a cooler part of the residence, such as lower floors or the basement.
- Take showers and baths early in the morning or late at night.
- Use appliances and equipment that give off heat (iron, light bulbs, clothes dryer, hair dryer, etc.) only as needed and limit use to the early morning or at night, not during the middle of the day.
- Slow down and avoid physical exertion to avoid heat stress.
- Listen to radio and television for discomfort index warnings and keep in touch with others every day.
- If the residence becomes too warm, try to be in a cooler place during the hottest part of the day – a friend’s or neighbor’s home, a cooling center, senior center, shopping mall or library.
On average, about two people are killed by lightning in Missouri each year. Across the U.S., 73 percent of lightning deaths and injuries occur in June, July and August. Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from the rain area of a thunderstorm – about the distance that you are able to hear the thunder from a storm. While virtually all people take some protective actions during the most dangerous part of thunderstorms, many leave themselves vulnerable to being struck by lightning as thunderstorms approach, depart, or are nearby. Although some victims are struck directly by the lightning discharge, many victims are struck as the current moves in and along the ground.
Lightning safety tips while outdoors:
- Remember, lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the rain area. Go quickly inside a completely enclosed building before the storm arrives. Do not go to a carport, open garage, covered patio or open window. A hard topped, all metal vehicle also provides good protection
- If no shelter is available, do not take shelter under a tree. Avoid being the tallest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, crouch down on the balls of your feet in the open, keeping twice as far away from a tree as it is tall.
- Get out of the water, off the beach, and out of small boats or canoes. Avoid standing in puddles of water even if wearing rubber boots.
- Do not use metal objects such as golf clubs, metal bats, fishing rods, or metal tools.
- Stop tractor work and heavy construction equipment, especially when pulling metal equipment.
Lightning safety tips while indoors:
- Stay there. The best protection from lightning is a house or other substantial building. However, stay away from windows, doors, and metal pipes.
- Do not use electric appliances during the storm. Turn off sensitive equipment such as televisions, VCRs, and computers.
- Telephone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the U.S. Do not make a call unless it is an emergency.
The National Weather Service has additional information about keeping safe in extreme heat, common heat disorders, the science of lightning and lightning safety for those involved in outdoor recreational activities, and National Lightning Awareness Week at www.crh.noaa.gov/lsx/?n=summerweathersafetyweek.