Heat, Drought, & Wildfire


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Heat, Drought, & Wildfire

Within the region, it is often said that we have two ranges of temperatures, hot and hotter.  While the Heart of Texas region receives its fair share of winter weather and rainfall, one of the greatest hazards we face is extreme high temperatures and the effects of those temperatures.  As the temperature rises, our green lawns aren’t the only things that suffer.

In 2011, our region experienced more than 100 continuous days with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  The extreme summer heat often causes illness and injuries to those with prolonged exposure to the heat and sun, as well as drought and wildfire damage.  Wildfires commonly result from a combination of the extremely hot temperatures, low amounts of rainfall, and careless behavior.

 Facts about Heat, Drought, and Wildfire

  • Each year, nearly 175 Americans die from extreme heat.  Young children, elderly, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to become victims from the heat.
  • Temperatures in vehicles rise rapidly during the summer months.  Never leave anyone inside of a vehicle, especially during the heat of summer.  Temperatures within an enclosed vehicle can exceed 130 degrees in a matter of minutes.
  • Remove dry fuels, such as wood and dead grass, near homes and businesses.  These dry fuels ignite easily, creating a major hazard that could cost thousands of dollars in a short time.

Heat-Related Safety Tips

  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible.  If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen rated at SPF 15 or higher.
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
  • Install window air conditioners snugly against window frames.  Add insulation if necessary to ensure that your cool air stays inside.
  • Weather strip doors and windows to keep cold air in and warm air out.
  • Prevent drought by watering your lawn only when necessary and in adherence with local water restrictions.
  • Properly dispose of cigarettes.  Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are the number one cause of wildfires within Texas.
  • Prevent wildfires by respecting “no-burn” days.
  • Dispose of hot charcoal in a non-flammable container or water down the coals before dumping them.

–Source: North Central Texas COG

Heat-Related Illnesses

Prolonged exposure to the intense sun and its effects, along with elevated humidity, can cause a number of illnesses that can easily become life-threatening.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that may occur during heavy exercise.  Heat cramps are commonly caused by dehydration, or a lack of water in the body.  These spasms often feel like a severe nighttime cramp in the calves, arms, abdomen, and back.

If you suspect heat cramps:

  • Immediately cool down and rest.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
  • Gently stretch and massage the painful areas.
  • Seek medical attention if the cramps do not go away in an hour.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs suddenly when the body becomes extremely dehydrated.  Those who are experiencing heat exhaustion may have a low blood pressure, cool and/or moist skin, a low-grade fever (below 102 degrees Farenheit), sweat heavily, be nauseous, and have a weak and rapid heartbeat.

If you suspect heat exhaustion:

  • Move the person to a shady area.  Lay them down and elevate their feet.
  • Loosen or remove clothing.
  • Give them cool water or a sports drink.  Do not give them an overly cold or iced drink, as this can induce shock.
  • Fan the person and spray or sponge them with cool, not cold, water.
  • Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.  If the person’s body temperature rises above 102 degrees, or if confusion or seizures occur, dial 911 immediately!

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is the worst of the heat-related illnesses.  Heatstroke occurs as the body’s ability to cope with heat stress is overwhelmed and stops functioning completely.  If not properly treated, heatstroke can result in death.

Those experiencing heatstroke may have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Body temperature higher than 104 degrees.
  • Skin may be hot and dry.
  • Changes in mental status, including anxiety, confusion, or coma.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing.
  • Extremely high or low blood pressure.
  • Fainting (often one of the first signs in older adults).

If you suspect heatstroke:

  • Move the person into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Wrap the person in cool, damp sheets or spray them with cool water.