May 20, 2018
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), climate change and extreme heat causes more deaths every year than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, earthquakes, and floods combined.
Especially at risk are adults over 65 years old, children under 4, people with existing medical conditions, and people without air conditioning.
So, what can you do?
Information from the National Weather Service and the City regarding heat and severe weather will be published via free email and text alerts via the City’s mass notification system, ReadyPhiladelphia. For updates, follow @PhilaOEM @PhiladelphiaGov @PHLPublicHealth @pcacares_org
Heat Health Emergency
When the Health Commissioner declares a Heat Health Emergency, the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging HeatLine (215-765-9040) is activated along with Philadelphia Department of Public Health mobile teams, cooling center hours are extended, and utility shutoffs are halted.
The PCA Heatline is a call center that people can contact for heat safety tips or if they have a health concern. During a Heat Health Emergency, health department nurses can speak to callers about medical problems related to the heat and initiate home visits by a PDPH mobile health member.
Seek shade and air conditioning during extreme heat. Find your local public swimming pool, spray ground, or cooling centers. Cooling centers are air conditioned facilities, such as libraries, community centers and senior centers that are open to the public that may offer extended hours during a Heat Health Emergency. Call 311 to find a cooling center near you.
Do not use fire hydrants to cool off, they are for fighting fires. According to the Philadelphia Water Department, opening hydrants to cool off decreases water pressure and makes it difficult for firefighters to do their jobs, plus it can damage water mains. The water pressure alone from a hydrant can cause serious injury or even death, especially if there are little kids around. From a waste perspective, the amount of water used in one hour by an open fire hydrant can be equivalent to a household’s water usage for an entire year.
If you work outside, take extra precautions. Outdoor workers are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can result in death if not treated immediately. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location.
Due to lack of vegetation, tall buildings, and concentration of dark, non-reflective surfaces, temperatures in an urban environment, like Philadelphia, are often higher than the surrounding suburban area. For people without air conditioning, higher nighttime temperatures can prevent overnight recovery from heat stress, which is particularly concerning during an extended heat event.
Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services Heat Team can declare a Code Red when heat and humidity become a concern for people who are homeless. A Code Red initiates services to protect individuals experiencing homelessness because they are vulnerable to heat related illnesses, including heat stroke, which is life-threatening.
Call the OHS Street Outreach team at 215-232-1984 if you have a concern for a homeless individual. Call Philadelphia Fire EMS at 911 if there is a medical emergency.
Make sure your pet has a ventilated, cool place to lay and plenty of water. When outside, ensure shade and water. Watch their paws too! Their paws have foot-pads which can burn your pets paws on surfaces like concrete, metal, pavement, sidewalks and asphalt.
During City declared Code Red events dogs must also receive the following or face penalties of $500 or more. All dogs must be afforded one or more separate areas of shade large enough to accommodate the entire body of the dog at one time and protect it from the direct rays of the sun. If you would like to report a dog left outdoors in severe weather, call our partners at ACCT Philly at 267-385-3800.
Children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. During warm or hot weather car interiors can reach lethal temperatures. It takes only two minutes for a car to reach unsafe temperatures. After an hour, temperatures can reach over 120 degrees inside a vehicle.
Excessive heat can worsen pre-existing health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. Learn the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, especially heat stroke, from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Also: Cover Up! Be aware of the cancerous effects the sun can have on your skin.
- People aged 65 years or older are at risk for adverse health issues during a heat event because they are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Many people, particularly older adults, also don’t feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. Because they may not realize that they are in danger, it’s important for family, friends or neighbors to check in on them and make sure that they are staying cool and hydrated.
- Infants and young children (under age 4) are sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and must also rely on their caregivers to make sure that they stay cool and hydrated.
- People with some chronic medical conditions are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can contribute to dehydration or interfere with the body’s ability regulate internal body temperature.
- Patients should check with their healthcare provider for more information about how specific chronic conditions and medications may affect them during extreme heat events.
- Specific tips for common chronic medical conditions:
- People with diabetes get dehydrated more quickly. Not drinking enough liquids can raise blood sugar, and high blood sugar can make you urinate more, causing dehydration.
- High temperatures can change how your body uses insulin. People with diabetes may need to test their blood sugar more often and adjust their insulin dose and what they eat and drink.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Exposure to high temperatures can exacerbate cardiovascular conditions. People with heart disease may be more susceptible to heat stroke.
- Some medicines commonly used to treat high blood pressure, like diuretics (“water pills”), can worsen dehydration
- Respiratory disease
- High temperatures can also impact air quality and exacerbate respiratory conditions, like asthma.
- A Code Orange may be declared when air quality affects people with sensitive conditions.
- Visit the Health Department’s air quality page to check air quality ratings each day and plan activities accordingly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following recommendations to prevent heat-related illness.
- Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. HOWEVER, if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask your doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.
- Stay in an air-conditioned place, if possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public air-conditioned space. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Electric fans may provide some comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans may not provide sufficient relief to prevent heat-related illness. Take a cool shower or bath, or move to an air-conditioned place to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and put on sunscreen.
- Visit at-risk adults and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours as much as possible.
An essential way to be prepared is to stay informed. Get emergency alerts from OEM’s ReadyPhiladelphia program sent to your phone or email to keep you informed prior to and during an emergency. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.