Extreme Heat

Extreme heat and other weather-related disasters are unavoidable as our climate warms. But heat illness and death are preventable. Let's work together to prepare and protect one another.

HEAT KILLS

 

Graphic image that says "Heat Kills - check on friends, family & neighbors"

 

Being Alone Can Be Dangerous

People suffering from heat illness may be too dizzy or confused to tell when they are in danger. Being alone during extreme heat can be dangerous. Stay in contact with others, especially if you live alone. 

Preventing Death is a Community Effort

Check on friends, family, and neighbors to make sure they are in a safe location. 

  • Call 911 if someone is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 
  • Call 211 if someone needs assistance getting to a community cooling center. 

Risk is Measured by the Heat Index 

The heat index tells us how the body perceives heat. This is more important than the temperature on a thermometer.

The National Weather Service tracks potential heat risks in the seven-day forecast and OSHA offers a heat index app

HOW TO GET HELP

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

211info connects people with health and social service organizations. During a heat wave, they can help you find a safe place to escape the heat. 

  • 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 

211info logo

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

COVID-19

Due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, the State of Oregon requires that everyone five years of age and older wear masks in indoor public settings whether vaccinated or not

Transportation

TriMet encourages anyone who needs relief from the excessive heat to ride TriMet to and from a cooling site, even if they can't pay fare. They won't be denied a ride. Plan extra time and check trimet.org/alerts before traveling. There may be delays to service due to the excessive heat. Info about operations during hot weather is at trimet.org/heat.

If you can, 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. 

If you don't have access to air conditioning, go to a cooler space. 

  • Visit public libraries, swimming pools, and splash pads. Visit your county or city's website: City of PortlandMultnomah County, Washington County, Clark County, Columbia County, Clackamas County
  • Visit indoor shopping malls, movie theaters, museums, etc. 
  • If you visit a lake, river, or the ocean, follow local rules and take water safety very seriously. Every year there are preventable deaths in our region's natural bodies of water. in See below for water safety tips. 

COVID-19

Due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, the State of Oregon requires that everyone five years of age and older wear masks in indoor public settings whether vaccinated or not

Transportation

TriMet encourages anyone who needs relief from the excessive heat to ride TriMet to and from a cooling site, even if they can't pay fare. They won't be denied a ride. Plan extra time and check trimet.org/alerts before traveling. There may be delays to service due to the excessive heat. Info about operations during hot weather is at trimet.org/heat.

If you can, 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. 

If someone is having a medical or life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.

If someone is having a drug or mental health crisis and they are in an unsafe situation, call your local crisis intervention line. 

During extreme heat, we need to use electricity to stay safe. Don't let energy costs prevent you from using life-saving tools. Contact your electric provider about bill payment assistance programs. 

You can also contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

If your power goes out, report it to your electric provider. If temperatures in your home become unsafe, see the info about to find a cooler space. 

Staying in a motel or hotel during a heat wave? Prices for renting a room should not be any higher than normal. If they are, it's called "price gouging." 

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

SIGNS OF HEAT ILLNESS

 

OHA infographic on Heat Stroke vs Heat Exhaustion

 

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 illness. However, certain people are more vulnerable. 

  • Older adults
  • Young children
  • Those with medical conditions, especially heart conditions 
  • People who work or play outside (or non-air conditioned buildings)
  • People who have to wait outside for public transportation  
  • People who live in tents, RVs, and other poorly insulated spaces
  • People who don't have access to cool indoor spaces 
  • Pets and livestock

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.

Life-Threatening Heat Stroke

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 illness, visit the CDC's Heat Stress page. 

Share What You Know

Most people don't know the signs of heat illness. Make sure everyone knows how to stay cool and seek help. Share the resources at the bottom of this webpage with your friends, family, and neighbors.

HOW TO STAY COOL

 

Photo of a woman drinking water from a small glass. She seems happy.

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

  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Visit regionalh2o.org to learn about using water during emergencies. 

If you don't have air conditioning, here are some great ways to cool your body. 

  • Put a cold, wet cloth or an ice pack on your neck.
  • Wear lightly-colored, light-weight, loose-fitting clothing. 
  • Take a cool shower or bath. Be sure to use the bathroom exhaust fan because moisture in the air can make you hotter.
  • 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 a community cooling center or cool space (see above). Even a few hours in a cool place can help.  

Fans Can Be Dangerous

  • If the air is warm enough, a fan can increase the temperature in a room by creating a convection effect. 
  • If you place a fan so it blows air directly on you, it can dehydrate your body. Drink extra water if you're using a fan. 

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. If you need help paying your electric bill, contact your electric provider. 

  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.

If you must be outside during extreme heat: 

  • 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. 
  • Avoid dark surfaces like asphalt. 
  • 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 CAN ALSO KILL

 

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

 

Flyer about dog safety during a toxic algae bloom.

Swimming and boating are nice ways to spend time during the heat. But every year there are fatalities in our rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Make sure your water fun doesn't become dangerous. If you are planning to be on or near the water, know the conditions and how to protect yourself.

Warm air temperature doesn’t always mean warm water in lakes, streams, or oceans. It can create a false sense of security for people swimming, surfing, and boating. This can lead to cold shock and hypothermia. 

Cold Shock 

Sudden exposure to cold water can cause “cold shock" that impacts your body and brain. This could even happen in 75 degree water if change in temperature is great enough. Cold shock can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. A sudden gasp and rapid breathing increases risk of drowning, even for confident swimmers in calm waters. In rougher open water this danger increases. 

Hypothermia

Cold water drains body heat up to four times faster than cold air. Hypothermia can set in if your body heat dips below 95 degrees. This will impair your brain and body and increase your risk of drowning and death. Even once you're removed from cold water, your core temperature can continue to drop. Get into a warm, dry, protected environment as quickly as possible. 

Life Jackets Are Essential

Wearing a lifejackets will significantly increase your chances of survival. Learn more

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.

Drowning often occurs when swimmers are tired. Know your limits and never swim alone. 

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. It can impact your ability to make good decisions and react quickly if something terrible happens. 

Alcohol consumption is not allowed in county parks without county and state permits.

Avoid potentially dangerous areas, including:

  • Ocean beaches with riptides
  • Fast-flowing or low-level rivers with rocks and other debris

And don't dive into shallow water or unfamiliar swimming holes. 

What is an Algae Bloom?

Algae are tiny, harmless organisms that live naturally in water. A harmful algae bloom (HAB), is actually made of cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae. Some cyanobacteria species create toxins that can make people and pets sick. If you're in an area with a harmful algae bloom, share these educational materials with others. 

August 2021 Alert

There is currently a toxic algae bloom in the Willamette River between Sauvie Island and Ross Island. 

  • Pets: No swimming or drinking - it can be lethal 
  • Humans: Swimming is okay for now, no drinking - when in doubt, stay out!

For more info, read the Multnomah County announcement and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services water quality testing info. Share Oregon DHS's dog safety alert poster (also available in Spanish).

BUSINESSES & NON-PROFITS

 

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

 

The exterior of an apartment building in Portland. It is old and brick and likely does not have central air conditioning.

 

People are gathered in a parking lot. They are sitting in lawn chairs and watching a movie on a big screen. It's dark outside.

 

 

Reschedule Outdoor Events & Work

Cancel or reschedule events during extreme heat if you employ workers or manage events that are outdoors or inside a non-air conditioned building. Otherwise, limit outdoor activity to the morning hours and make sure all staff know how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses.

Protect Workers

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. Requirements are triggered when the heat index (how the body perceives heat) exceeds 80 and 90 degrees.

Compliance requires employers to provide water, shade and ventilation, communication, rest and acclimatization, and training. The National Weather Service tracks potential heat risks in the seven-day forecast and offers a heat index app

Make Buildings Safer

If you own or manage an apartment 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.
  • If air conditioning is not available, make ventilated ground floor spaces available.
  • Keeping people cool is primary, COVID precautions are secondary. 

Hospitals and ambulances are at capacity during heat waves, so prevention is key.

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.org

If opening a cooling space isn't the right fit for your organization, consider hosting a social event for people in your community. Food and entertainment can motivate people to attend and help them relax during a stressful event. Movie screenings are always popular.

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, learn how to identify and prevent heat stress in plants.

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.  

SHARE THIS INFO

 

Five people shaped icons. They are all a different color. Turquoise, orange, pink, purple, and green.

Make sure everyone knows how to stay cool, recognize signs of heat illness, and seek help if they need. Share these great resources with your friends, family, and neighbors. Thanks to our federal, state, and regional partners for developing these. 

Thumbnail image of OHA's "Heat Stroke vs. Exhaustion" flyer

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

From: Oregon Health Authority Preventing Heat Related Illnesses

Thumbnail image of Multnomah County's "Take care of yourself when it's hot" poster

Take Care of Yourself When It's Hot 

From: Multnomah County Tips to Print and Post

Thumbnail image of OSHA's "Water. Rest. Shade." brochure.

Water. Rest. Shade.

From: Oregon Occupational Health & Safety Heat Stress Signage

Thumbnail image of OHA's "Beat the Heat" flyer

Beat the Heat

From: Oregon Health Authority Preventing Heat Related Illnesses

Thumbnail image of Red Cross's "Heat Wave Safety Checklist"

Heat Wave Safety Checklist

From: Red Cross Heat Wave Safety

Thumbnail image of CDC's "Beat the Heat: Extreme Heat" infographic

Beat the Heat: Extreme Heat

From: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Extreme Heat

Thumbnail image of CDC's "Avoid Spot Treat" infographic

Avoid - Spot - Treat

From: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Extreme Heat

Thumbnail image of Humane Society's "Keep pets out of hot cars" brochure

Keep Pets Out of Hot Cars

From: Humane Society of the United States Keep Pets Safe in the Heat

Thumbnail image of Oregon Humane Society's "Help pets in hot cars" infographic

Help Pets in Hot Cars

From: Oregon Humane Society Hot Weather Safety for Pets

Thumbnail image of Oregon DHS "Dog safety alert" poster that explains the threat of a toxic algae bloom.

Dog Safety Alert

From: Oregon Department of Human Services Cyanobacteria Blooms

A sign that says "Free Water Here" in five languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese)

Free Water Here

From: City of Portland Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD)

Thumbnail image of CDC's "Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness"

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness

From CDC Extreme Heat