Heat Wave Emergency
GOT WATER ?
Exposure to extreme heat can make people seriously ill.
Unchecked heat-related illnesses may become a serious problem in
a short period of time and can cause death. Though anyone can
become a victim to excessive heat, the elderly are among those
people most at risk. In recent years, several hundred persons
have died in cities across the country as a result of excessive
heat during heat waves. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and
heatstroke's are conditions caused by overexposure to heat.
Los Angeles has experienced some of the hottest weather in the
nation. Los Angeles Police Officers and the citizens of Los
Angeles should be aware of risk factors for heat related
illnesses in addition to the symptoms of people who might be
experiencing a heat related illness.
Los Angeles Police Officers and the citizens of Los Angeles
should also be particularly aware of individuals who are at high
risk for excessive heat exposure, and make special efforts to
insure these individuals are properly cared for. Everyone in Los
Angeles is encouraged to check on people they know or come in
contact with who are at risk for excessive heat exposure.
Everyone should also be prepared to advise at risk individuals
of preventive measures for heat exposure and offer assistance
when needed. The following information will assist in that
- Heat Wave: More than 48 hours of heat measuring at least
90 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity (80% relative
- Heat Index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit that tells
how hot it really feels with the heat and humidity. Exposure
to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees
- Heat Cramps: Usually the first symptom of overexposure.
The symptoms are painful muscle spasms. Care for heat cramps
with rest and fluid intake. Do not take salt tablets.
Activity can resume when the cramps subside, but fluid
intake should continue.
- Heat Exhaustion: Less dangerous than heat stroke, heat
exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or
work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost
through heavy perspiring. Fluid loss causes blood flow to
decrease in the vital organs, resulting in a form of shock.
With heat exhaustion, perspiration does not evaporate as it
should because of high humidity or too many layers of
clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. Body
temperature will be near normal.
- Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is
life threatening. The victimís temperature control system,
which produces perspiration to cool the body, stops working.
The body temperature can rise so high that damage and death
may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
Signals include the following: hot, red and dry skin;
changes in consciousness; rapid/weak pulse and rapid/shallow
breathing. Body temperature can be very high, sometimes as
high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
RISK FACTORS FOR HEAT ILLNESSES
- Level of physical activity
- General health
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Skin disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of water pills
- Use of allergy pills
- Drug use
- Clothing worn
- Lack of air conditioning
- Poor ventilation in home
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION
- Dizziness or lightheadedness (usually conscious but may
- Actively sweating
- Skin cool and pale
- Core temperature over 102 degrees
TREATMENT FOR HEAT EXHAUSTION
- Shady place or air conditioned room
- Keep cool
- Increase fluids
- Cold wet towels
- May require intravenous fluids
- Immediate action is necessary
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE
- Flushed skin
- Dry skin
- Warm skin
- Rapid pulse
- Incoherent speech
- Disoriented and confused
- Possibly unconscious
- Temperature over 105 degrees
TREATMENT OF HEAT STROKE
- Shady place or air conditioned room
- Remove most of clothes
- Apply cool, wet towels
- Fan to increase air flow
- Call 911 or transport to an emergency room
GENERAL HEAT WAVE EMERGENCY TIPS
- Dress for the heat: Wear lightweight, light-colored
clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sunís
energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or use an
- Drink water: Carry water or juice with you and drink
continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Keep your
drinking water cool by keeping it in the refrigerator. Avoid
alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
Eat small meals and eat more often: Avoid foods high in
protein, which increase metabolic heat.
- Salt tablets: Avoid using salt tablets unless directed
to do so by a physician.
- Slow down: Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do
strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the
day, which is usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7
a.m. Stay indoors when possible.
- Shower: Take a shower twice a day, once in the
morning and once during the heat of the day.
GENERAL TIPS TO CARE FOR HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS
Exposure to extreme heat or cold may make a person seriously
ill. The likelihood of illness also depends on factors such as
physical activity, clothing, wind, humidity, working and living
conditions, and a personís age and state of health. The
following tips are important to remember when caring for
- Get the victim out of the heat;
- Watch for signs of breathing problems;
- Loosen tight clothing;
- Remove perspiration soaked clothing;
- Apply cool wet cloths to the skin;
- Fan the victim;
- If victim is conscious, give cool water to drink. Do not
let the conscious victim drink too quickly.
- Give about one glass (four ounces) of water every 15
- If the victim vomits, stop giving fluids and position
the victim on their side;
- Let the victim rest in a comfortable position, and watch
carefully for changes in their condition. The victim should
not resume normal activities that day;
- Call for an ambulance if victim refuses water, vomits,
or starts to lose consciousness. This means the victimís
condition is worsening; and
- Do not apply rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to the victimís
body in an attempt to cool them off.
HEAT WAVE TIPS FOR THE HOME
- Keep air conditioners in good repair;
- Keep draperies drawn and windows closed. This will
prevent cool air from escaping and warm air from seeping
through glass areas;
- Seal off unused rooms;
- Turn thermostats off and leave vents closed in
unoccupied rooms to save energy;
- During summer afternoons, try to limit the use of heat
producing appliances in the kitchen and laundry areas;
- Turn off unnecessary lights;
- Clean or replace air conditioner filters at least twice
- Night flushing or ventilating at night to clear the heat
from your home cools the structure so it begins the next day
at a lower temperature;
- In the morning, close all the windows to keep the heat
out as long as possible;
- Room and ceiling fans help circulate air within a room,
blow air over your body and draw heat away;
- When used with an air conditioner, the thermostat may be
set higher, which reduces the energy used by the air
- Encourage airflow through your home by opening windows
on opposite walls (one allows cooler air in, the other
allows warmer air out). Place a fan in the window to boost
the flow of air through your home; and
- Weather-strip and seal around all doors and windows to
keep the heat out and the cool air in.
The information contained in this circular was obtained from the
Los Angeles Fire Department, the American Red Cross,
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Department of Aging, and the
Department of Water and Power. The Department of Aging is
distributing free copies of an emergency guide for individuals
who want more information regarding heat wave emergencies. The
Department of Aging has also established a toll free heat wave
hotline. The telephone number is 1 (800) 339-6993.