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Last updated Thu, 07/01/2021 - 11:29

Extreme Heat

As our climate changes, extreme heat and other weather-related disasters are unavoidable. But heat stroke and heat exhaustion are preventable. Let's all work together to prepare and protect one another.

IF YOU NEED HELP

 

 

211info logo

Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 if there is a life-threatening emergency. If in doubt, call 9-1-1 and let the operator decide which services to send.

If you don't have access to air conditioning, try visiting libraries, swimming pools, splash pads, indoor shopping malls, movie theaters, museums, etc. If you visit a lake, river, or the ocean, make sure you follow local rules and take water safety very seriously. See below for more info. 

Avoid waiting in extreme heat for public transit. Call someone you trust for a ride or call 2-1-1 to ask about ride services. 

A cooling center is an air-conditioned space run by a County or non-profit organization. They usually provide water, snacks, and space to rest. Additional details (including whether pets are allowed) vary by location. 

211info connects people with health and social service organizations.

  • Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 (24/7)
  • TTY dial 711 and call 1-866-698-6155
  • Text your zip code to 898211 (TXT211) Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
  • Email help@211info.org
  • Download the app 
  • Search online at 211info.org 

If you or someone else is having a non-medical or non-life-threatening emergency, call your local crisis intervention line. 

During extreme heat, we need to use electricity to stay safe. If you need help with energy costs, electric providers offer bill payment assistance programs. 

Staying in a motel or hotel during a heat wave? If you think you are experiencing price gouging, you can report it to the Oregon Department of Justice at 503-378-8442 or online at doj.state.or.us/consumer-protection

STAYING SAFE IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT

 

 

Heat infographic from the Humane Society explains why pets shouldn't be left in cars and what to do if one is left in a car.

 

We're All at Risk

No one is immune to the rapid onset of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Plus, high temperatures in spring and early summer can have a stronger effect on people because our bodies haven’t gotten used to hot summer weather yet. During longer heat waves, the temperatures often don't get low enough at night to cool down buildings. This can create a dangerous situation for many people. 

Who is Most Vulnerable

  • Older adults
  • Young children
  • Those with medical conditions, especially heart conditions 
  • People who work or play outside 
  • People who have to wait outside for public transportation  
  • People have no access to cool indoor spaces 
  • Pets

If you know of someone who is vulnerable to heat, check them several times a day during very hot weather. Call 911 if someone is experiencing a severe medical emergency or 211 if someone needs assistance getting to a cooling center. 

Share What You Know

Share information with others about how to stay cool, offer to help, and seek help if you need it! Here are some heat-related documents you can print and share with others:

KNOW THE SIGNS OF HEAT ILLNESS

 

Heat infographic from the CDC explains the symptoms and treatments for various heat-related illnesses.

 

 

Heat Exhaustion:

Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing

What to do: 

  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Rest in a cool area.
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Heat Stroke: 

This is a is a serious, life-threatening emergency.

Symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Rapid pulse
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Body temperature of 103° or higher
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating

What to do:

  • Call 911. Heat stroke is an emergency. 
  • While you wait for help, move to an air-conditioned space. 
  • Cool down gently with cold towels and ice.

For more information about heat stress visit the CDC's Heat Stress page. 

HOW TO STAY COOL

 

 

 

Stay hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Drink a glass every hour.

  • Don't like plain water? Slice a cucumber, lemon, or strawberries and keep a fruit-infused water jug in the fridge. Unsweetened herbal ice teas are also refreshing.
  • Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine. These are diuretics, which means they make you pee more and can lead to dehydration. 
  • Drink electrolytes and eat salty foods, which replace the sodium your body loses when you sweat. 
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, and grapes. 
  • Eat warm or spicy food if you are hydrated. It will cause you to sweat, which will cool your body down. Then drink more water!
  • Visit regionalh2o.org to learn about using water during emergencies. 
  • Wear lightly-colored, light-weight, loose-fitting clothing. 
  • The hottest time of day is usually 2pm to 8pm. Stay in the shade or inside a cool building. If you don't have air conditioning, go to cooling center or cool space (see above). Even a few hours in a cool place can help.  
  • If you place a fan so it blows air directly on you, make sure to drink plenty of water. Air movement can dehydrate your body, which can be very dangerous. 
  • Put a cold, wet cloth or an ice pack on your neck.
  • Take a cool shower or bath. Be sure to use the bathroom exhaust fan because moisture in the air can make you hotter.

There are many ways to keep your house cooler, even if you don't have air conditioning. Use just enough electricity to stay safe and comfortable - but try not to use more than you need. This will save you money and reduce strain on the region's electrical system. 

  1. Block heat. Sunlight passing through windows will heat your home. Close your shades or blinds. If possible, use heavy curtains, reflective window film, or solar blankets. Also, close doors to rooms you aren’t using to keep cool air where you need it most.
     
  2. Cook wisely. Your stove and oven can heat up your home. Eat cold foods. Grill outside in the shade. Or use smaller, more efficient appliances like a toaster oven, air fryer, slow cooker, or instant pot. If you have to use your stove indoors, turn on the exhaust fan to remove hot, humid air from your kitchen.
     
  3. Wash wisely. Washing machines, clothes dryers, and dishwashers all generate heat and humidity. Humidity makes us feel hotter and more uncomfortable. Do your washing in the evening or early morning. Use cold water and turn on exhaust fans.
     
  4. Open windows to let in cool air at night. Make a cross breeze by putting one fan in a window blowing air out, and one fan in a window blowing air in. Always use caution with children and pets when windows are open. 
  5. Unplug electronics. All electronics generate small amounts of heat. To keep things on the cooler side, unplug electronics you’re not using. Every little bit helps.

  • Take it easy. Limit your physical activities and movements. Try to limit activity to the cooler morning hours. 
  • Avoid direct sunlight as much a possible. 
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • No one - infants, children or pets - should be left in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked. Not even for one minute. 

WATER SAFETY

 

Picture of a smiling child floating in a river or lake. They are wearing a life jacket.

 

 

 

Swimming and boating are nice ways to spend time during the heat. Make sure your water fun doesn't become dangerous. 

  • Be prepared for cold water. Even on hot days, natural bodies of water can be dangerously cold.
  • Know your limits and don’t swim alone. Drowning often occurs when swimmers are tired.
  • Wear a life jacket and have a whistle when swimming anywhere without lifeguards, on a boat, personal watercraft, innertube or other water sports equipment. By law, children 12 and younger must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or smaller. Inflatable toys and mattresses will not keep children safe.
  • Never leave children unsupervised in or near water – not even for a minute. Children need constant supervision around water, including ponds, buckets, and wading pools. Drowning can happen swiftly and silently. Cover your spa when not in use. If you have a pool, use a fence or other barrier to prevent unauthorized entry. 
  • Avoid alcohol when swimming or boating. Alcohol consumption is not allowed in county parks without county and state permits.
  • Avoid potentially dangerous areas, such as ocean beaches with riptides and fast-flowing or low-level rivers with rocks and other debris.
  • Don’t dive into shallow water or unfamiliar swimming holes.

BUSINESSES & NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

 

An outdoor worker in a full-body jumpsuit is on his knees and wiping sweat off his face. He looks very hot.

 

 

Reschedule or Cancel Events and Outdoor Work

If you employ outdoor workers or manage outdoor events, cancel or reschedule during extreme heat. Otherwise, limit outdoor activity to the morning hours and make sure staff know how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses. On July 8, 2021 Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted an emergency rule increasing protections for workers against the hazards of high and extreme heat. 

Offer a Cool Space

If you run a business or community organization with an air-conditioned building, consider opening a cooling space for the public. Locations with no religious requirements of visitors can be put on the 211info website by contacting support@211info.orgIf this isn't the right fit for your organization, consider hosting a social event, such as a movie screening. Food and entertainment can motivate people to attend and help them relax during a stressful event. 

Make High-Rise Buildings Safer

If you own or manage a high-rise building that does not have central air conditioning: 

  • Make a plan to check on vulnerable residents.
  • Allow residents to use portable A/C units and reflective insultation in windows.
  • Share/post information on cooling centers and the signs & symptoms of heat illness (see above).
  • If air conditioning is available somewhere in the building (lobby or common room), make it available to residents.
  • Make ventilated ground floor spaces available.
  • Keeping people cool is primary, COVID precautions are secondary.
  • Hospitals and ambulances are at capacity, so prevention is key.

PROTECTING PLANTS

 

Photo of sunburned, shriveled blueberries.

 

Extreme heat can damage plants, threatening our region's food supply. If you are a home gardener or a farmer, make sure you know how to identify and prevent heat stress in plants.

Signs of Heat Stress in Plants

  • Leaf rolling and cupping
  • Wilting
  • Dry leaf edges
  • Ozone damage
  • Blossom and fruit drop
  • Bolting
  • Sunscald
  • Blossom end rot

How to Reduce Heat Stress in Plants

  • Water wisely - visit regionalh20.org to learn about outdoor water conservation
  • Mulch
  • Provide shade and humidity
  • Don't plant or transplant
  • Don't prune trees or shrubs
  • Wait to fertilize or apply chemicals
  • Reduce competition from weeds

Visit Oregon State University Extension Service's Heatwave in the garden page for more great advice.