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Public Safety
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Severe Weather > Heatwave


Severe Weather


Long periods of excessive heat can be dangerous. Excessive heat kills more people in the U.S. than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined.  The elderly, the very young, obese persons, and those who work outdoors or have substance abuse problems are most at risk. In addition, people in urban areas are more susceptible as the buildings and roadways tend to hold in heat throughout the night.

  Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must participate in strenuous activities, do it in the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7a.m.

  Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine.

  Drink plenty of water regularly and often, even if you don't feel thirsty. Water is the best liquid to drink during a heat wave. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can intensify the effects of the heat on your body. This is especially true about beer because it accelerates dehydration.

  Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the heat energy from the sun.

  Never leave children or pets in the car even with the windows down. When the outside temperature is only 83 degrees F, and your car windows are down 2 inches, the temperature in your car can reach 109 degrees F in 15 minutes.

  Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

Persons conducting outside activities in hot weather:

  Ensure your personnel working or participating in outdoor activities during hot weather have access to water and drink frequently!

  Monitor them on a regular basis for signs of heart related illnesses:

Heat Exhaustion:

  Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin

  Heavy sweating


  Nausea or vomiting



Heat Stroke

  Hot, red skin

  Lack of perspiration

  Changes in consciousness

  Rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing


  Take the victim out of the heat and place in a cool environment

  Cool the body slowly with cool, wet towels or sheets.  If possible, put the victim in a cool bath.

  Have the victim drink water, SLOWLY, at the rate of approximately half a glass of water every 15 minutes. Consuming too much water too quickly will cause nausea and vomiting in a victim of heat illness.

  If the victim is experiencing vomiting, cramping, or is losing consciousness, DO NOT administer food or drink. Call 9-1-1 and alert a medical professional as soon as possible, and keep a close watch on the individual until professional help is available.