What-Why-How of Extreme Heat?
A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat, often accompanied by high humidity. Extreme heat and high humidity slow down the evaporation process of our body, and body must work extra hard to maintain normal level of body temperature. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the perspiration rate of evaporation. Heat disorders occur due to over-exposure of our body to heat or excessive-exercise for our age and physical condition. These conditions can put our life at risk if we don't take adequate precautions.
Who is at-risk?
Older people, young children, the sick or the overweight are more at risk in extreme heat. Stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality can induce heat-related illnesses. Hence, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk in extreme heat than those living in rural areas.
Urban heat island effect:
At day time, asphalt and concrete store heat longer and release it gradually at night, which causes higher night-temperatures known as the "urban heat island effect."
How to Combat Heat Wave?
(a) Before Extreme Heat:
- First of all, make an ‘emergency basket’, ie; collect basic items of household needs like food, water, medicines & other essential supplies in sufficient quantity to last a few days.
- Make a family communications plan, ie; how to get to a safe place, contact one another, get together and what to do in emergency.
- Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
- Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), like aluminium foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
- Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
- Cover windows that receive the sun with drapes, shades, canopy or louvers. These can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80%.
- Keep storm windows up round the clock.
- Listen to weather forecasts for updates on temperature changes.
- Know your neighbours who are elderly, handicapped, sick or overweight. They are more at risk and may need help.
- Get training in first-aid to assist in heat-wave emergencies.
(b) During Extreme Heat:
- Maximize your stay indoors and minimize your exposure to the sun and extreme temperature changes.
- Stay on the lowest floor away from sunshine, if you don’t have air conditioning.
- Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine.
- Eat light and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets, unless advised by your physician.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities.
- Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings ie; libraries, schools, movie theatres, shopping malls and other community facilities.
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
- Persons with epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease or a problem with fluid retention must consult a doctor before increasing their liquid intakes.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-coloured clothes to cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colours because these absorb more sun rays.
- Protect face and head by wearing a scarf or wide-brimmed hat.
- Avoid strenuous work and take frequent breaks when working during the warmest part of the day.
- Keep checking on family, friends and neighbours who don’t have air conditioning, and spend most of their time alone.
- Keep checking on your pets to ensure that they are safe from extreme heat.
- Listen to FM/ Radio/TV for weather updates from the MET Department.