Brooklyn Boro

How to stay cool during a heat wave

July 18, 2019 Kelly Mena
Brooklynites have a summer of fun at Brooklyn Bridge Park to look forward to this summer. Shown: Kids love the Water Lab at Pier 6. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

It’s going to be a scorcher. Temperatures are expected to hit the high 90s this weekend — Sunday may even hit 100.

In the face of a heat wave, make sure to stay cool, stay hydrated and stay safe. Here’s how.

First, what is a heat wave?

The National Weather Service defines a heat wave as at least three consecutive days with high temperatures of at least 90 degrees.

New York City will issue a ‘Heat Advisory’ when the heat index is forecast to reach 95 degrees to 99 degrees for at least two consecutive days or 100 degrees to 104 degrees for any length of time, according to the city’s department of emergency management.

According to the weather forecast, the official blaze won’t start until Friday, and then will last through Sunday. Take care of yourself, conserve energy and check in on your neighbors.

The emergency heat plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday officially announced the city’s plan for combatting the extreme temperatures, including changes in beach and pool center hours across the five boroughs.

Due to the heat:

  • Approximately 500 cooling centers have been activated around the city. 
  • From Friday through Sunday, pools will be open an extra hour: from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • From Friday through Sunday, city beaches will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The Department of Social Services has issued a Code Red. During a Code Red, outreach teams redouble their efforts citywide, with a focus on vulnerable unsheltered New Yorkers and shelter is available system-wide to accommodate homeless New Yorkers who are brought to shelter by outreach teams or who walk in seeking respite from heat.
  • To help keep New Yorkers hydrated, the Department of Environmental Protection will have Water-on-the-Go portable drinking water fountains positioned at busy pedestrian areas across the five boroughs from Friday to Sunday.

Cooling centers across the borough

“Extreme heat is dangerous, period,” said de Blasio in a public statement. “I urge all New Yorkers to exercise caution this weekend as temperatures near 100. Look out for your neighbors, friends and family and call 311 to find a cooling center.”

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Hundreds of cooling centers — local senior and community center where people can go to get air conditioning during a heat emergency — across the city opened on Wednesday and will remain in operation through the week starting at 8 a.m., according to a city department of health spokesperson. To find a cooling center near you, click here.

These centers are free and open to the public and operate during daytime hours.

Energy saving tips to prevent power outages

According to the city’s Emergency Management department, during intense heat days it is also important to conserve energy usage to avoid brownouts and other electrical interruptions.

The officials recommend low-power or efficient usage of utilities in an effort to keep appliances and emergency medical equipment on and functional. Among their recommendations:

  • Set your air conditioner to 78 degrees — or “low.”
  • Run appliances such as ovens, washing machines, dryers and dishwashers in the early morning or late at night when it is cooler outside, to reduce heat and moisture in your home.
  • Close doors to keep cool air in and hot air out when the air conditioner is running.
  • Keep shades, blinds, and curtains closed. About 40 percent of unwanted heat comes through windows.
  • Turn off air conditioners, lights, and other appliances when not at home, and using a timer or smart technology to turn on your air conditioner about a half-hour before arriving home. Keep air conditioner filters clean.
  • Tell your utility provider if you or someone you know depends on medical equipment that requires electricity.

A doctor’s tips for staying cool

It’s going to take more than just water to keep cool during a heat wave, and Dr. John Marshall, chairperson of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, has some tips for not overheating this weekend.

“The body cools itself naturally by allowing heat to escape through the skin, which is called perspiration,” said Dr. Marshall in a public advisory statement.“If the body doesn’t cool properly or doesn’t cool enough, a person may suffer a heat-related illness.” Some tips from the doc:

  • Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic) regardless of your activity level — don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and sugary beverages, as these liquids actually cause you to lose fluid and can lead to dehydration. Also avoid extremely cold drinks, which can lead to stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors during the warmest hours of the day, and, if possible, in an air-conditioned space.
  • When you are outdoors, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to deflect the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Limit outdoor exercise. If you must exercise outdoors, remember to stay hydrated by drinking two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. You are more at risk as the temperature or humidity rises, and when there’s an air-pollution alert in effect.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals — they add heat to the body.
  • Never leave anyone (or any animal) in a closed, parked vehicle without air-conditioning.
  • Develop a neighborhood prevention plan. Identify those without air-conditioning and assign neighbors to check on those who are at greater risk for developing heat-related illness.

Ride out the wave

Though the most direct way to beat the heat may be to sit directly in front of an air-conditioning unit, those looking to head outdoors for the weekend can still find some fun activities.

Hit the beach: It might seem like the worst place to visit when the sun is beating down on you, but the beach is the perfect place to get a cool breeze and water access. Not to mention — the breeze won’t cost you a penny.

Block party: Hang out with your friends on a shady stoop with some nice cool beers waters and hotdogs as you attempt to not faint. The more friends you surround yourself with, the easier it is to forget how miserable the high 90s are.

Rooftop bar: While we echo Dr. Marshall’s sentiments that you’re better off with a water than a cocktail this weekend, we won’t stand in your way if you want to head to a rooftop bar. Find a seat with an umbrella not too far from an air-conditioned interior. You’ll probably get a sunburn, but at least you’ll have the company of a cute bartender.

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