Stay Safe when the Mercury Rises

Stay Safe when the Mercury Rises
Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.

In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths in the United States than any other weather event, including floods. Now that summer weather has finally arrived in Montana, let’s review a few basic tips about what you can do to prepare for and live through a heat wave.

A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity. You will hear weather forecasters use the following terms when a heat wave is predicted in your community:

  • Excessive Heat Watch - Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs=105-110° Fahrenheit).
  • Heat Advisory - Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs=100-105° Fahrenheit).
  • When a heat wave is forecast, here’s what you can do to prepare:

  • Listen to local weather forecasts so you know about upcoming temperature changes.
  • Also keep an eye on the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the heat index by as much as 15° F.
  • Discuss heat safety precautions with members of your household. Have a plan for wherever you spend time— home, work and school—and prepare for the possibility of power outages.
  • Check the contents of your emergency disaster kit.
  • Know those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need your help.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls).
  • Get trained in First Aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Make sure your animals have water and shade.
  • When a heat wave is upon you, it is important to respond appropriately in order to be safe. A few simple adjustments can prevent serious heat-related illnesses (these will be covered in a subsequent column).

  • Listen to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors and use the buddy system.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are OK.