UNDERSTANDING HEAT RISK
Heat is the Deadliest Weather Hazard
The HeatRisk Index
Heat can be very dangerous even if the temperature is under 90 degrees. Other important factors include humidity, time of year, duration of unusual heat, nighttime temperature, and location.
- TIME OF YEAR: Our bodies need time to adjust to changes in temperature. A sudden change from hot to col weather (or an early-season heat wave) is more dangerous.
- DURATION OF HEAT: 100 degrees is much more dangerous on day five of a heat wave than on day one. Our bodies need time to recover.
- NIGHTTIME COOLING: If buildings don't cool down at night, it's very difficult to cool them during the day. This makes it harder for our bodies to recover and tolerate the heat.
- SHADE & WIND: Heat is more dangerous in areas with dark surfaces (such as asphalt) and without good airflow. These areas are warmer and cool down more slowly. Light colors, plants, and trees make our communities safer from extreme heat.
To learn more about current heat risk, view the National Weather Service HeatRisk Seven-Day Forecast.
Being Alone During Extreme Heat Can be Dangerous
When people overheat, they can get weak, dizzy, and confused. They might not recognize when they are unsafe. If you know someone who is alone and does not have access to air conditioning, please check on them often during extreme heat. Just checking once might not be enough.
Everyone Is at Risk When It’s Hot
Certain people are at greater risk, including:
- People who are alone and unable to stay cool
- Older adults (65+ years)
- Infants and young children
- Those with medical conditions, especially heart and lung conditions
- People who work or play outside (or in 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
HOW TO GET HELP
9-1-1 is for emergencies only:
- If someone is in danger, hurt, or non-responsive
- If you are in immediate need of police, fire, or medical assistance
Please don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 if there is a life-threatening emergency. If you aren't sure if it's an emergency, call 9-1-1 and let the call taker decide.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Download the app
- Search online at 211info.org
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 vary by location. Many allow pets. Even just a few hours in a cool space can help your body reset and keep you safe.
- Call 2-1-1 or visit 211info.org
- Visit your county or city's website: City of Portland, Multnomah County, Washington County, Clark County, Columbia County, Clackamas County
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. Even just a few hours in a cool space can help your body reset and keep you safe.
- Visit public libraries, swimming pools, and splash pads. Visit your county or city's website: City of Portland, Multnomah County, Washington County, Clark County, Columbia County, Clackamas County
- Visit indoor shopping malls, movie theaters, museums, etc.
- If you visit a lake, river, or ocean, follow local rules and take water safety very seriously. Every year there are preventable deaths in our region's natural bodies of water. See below for water safety tips.
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 the 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.
Are you in need of a fan, air conditioner, or other items to support your health during extreme heat? Some health insurance companies offer resources for their clients. Contact your health plan directly:
- CareOregon: 503-416-4100
- Kaiser Permanente: 503-721-6435
- Legacy | PacificSource: 888-675-0350
- OHSU Health: 844-827-6572
- Providence: 503-574-7247
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.
- Portland General Electric (print this flyer in six languages)
- Pacific Power
- Clark Public Utilities
- Forest Grove Light and Power
- West Oregon Electric Cooperative
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
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
What to Do
Heat Stroke Symptoms
What to Do
Learn More About Heat Illness
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.
- 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 Help - Or Hurt
- And if the air is warm enough, a fan will only move the warm air around. This creates a "convection oven" effect and makes the room warmer.
- If you place a fan so it blows air directly on you, it can dehydrate your body. If you need a fan to stay cool, make sure to drink extra water.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
BE SAFE IN THE WATER
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.
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.
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. For educational material and up-to-date information visit the OHA cyanobacteria website.
BUSINESSES & NON-PROFITS
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 staff know how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses.
On July 8, 2021, the 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.
Employers are required to provide water, shade, ventilation, communication, rest, acclimatization, and training. The National Weather Service tracks our region's potential heat risks in the 7-day HeatRisk 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 insulation in windows.
- Share/post information on cooling centers, the signs & symptoms of heat illness (see above), and how to get help.
- If air conditioning is available somewhere in the building, such as a 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.
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 email@example.com.
If opening a cooling space isn't the right fit for your organization, consider hosting a misting station or a social event for people in your community. Food and entertainment can motivate people to attend and help them relax during a stressful event. Outdoor movie screenings are always popular.
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
- 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 info.
SHARE THIS INFO
Make sure everyone knows how to stay cool, recognize signs of heat illness, and seek help if they need it. Share these great resources with your friends, family, and neighbors. Additional heat messaging in 26 languages can be found on our Messaging Tools page.