Ask The DA: Safety precautions during excessive heat

July 15, 2013 Charles J. Hynes
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Excessive heat is both a public health and a public safety concern. During hot spells such as our continuing heat wave, tempers can flare up as the thermostat rises. We need to remind ourselves to keep a cool head no matter what the circumstances or how unpleasant the weather might be. This is true both at home and while out and about with members of the public.

Of course, excessively hot temperatures are also unhealthy, especially for the elderly, children, people with various medical conditions or taking certain medications, and pets.

Whenever temperatures rise as high as they have recently, energy use increases substantially along with the risk of sporadic blackouts. To ensure we all remain cool, energy experts recommend that you set your air conditioner’s thermostat at 76, or even 78 degrees

If this seems too warm for you, experts suggest that you consider using a fan in addition to the air conditioner since fans use much less energy and make the temperature feel cooler by circulating the air. Also, it is recommended that you keep your window coverings closed during the day to help keep your home from heating up.

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Experts also recommend that you turn off unnecessary electronic devices and lights. Other tips include postponing activities which require electricity, such as washing clothes.  However, perhaps the most important advice for managing excessive heat is to slow down, stay indoors and postpone strenuous projects and outdoor activities while drinking plenty of water until cooler temperatures return.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year nearly 300 people in our country die from heat-related causes. Additionally, thousands more suffer from dehydration and heat stroke.

If possible, use air conditioning when it is very hot. If air conditioning is not available, consider visiting public places like neighborhood cooling centers, malls, libraries, etc. which have air conditioning.

Some people are known to keep windows closed for security reasons even when cool breezes are blowing. Safety concerns can be resolved, however, by installing safety latches which keep windows from being opened from the outside, while allowing air to enter. Safety latches are inexpensive and can be purchased at a local hardware store.

With awareness and preventive measures, everyone can enjoy a safe and healthy summer.

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