Washington summers are getting longer and hotter. As the number of extreme heat events increase across the state, the potential for dangerous conditions for residents in Thurston County rises as well. If immediate action to halt and reverse greenhouse gas emissions is not taken, a “normal” year in Washington will be warmer than the hottest year in the 20th century.
Anyone can get ill from extreme heat. However, vulnerable groups such as outdoor workers, young children, older adults, people experiencing poverty, and people with chronic diseases are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of heat events.
Death, illness, and bodily harm can occur at low Heat Index (weather.gov) values. The level of physical activity and your acclimation to heat will be important considerations in determining safe conditions for yourself and members of your community.
Employers and employees should consider the job, the environment, and the worker in comparison with the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) to determine hazardous conditions – Protect your workers and yourself by learning more at Heat Hazard (OSHA)
All members of our community should understand the heat advisories released by the National Weather Service and how to evaluate the Heat Index. - Heat Forecast Tools (weather.gov)
Hot Weather Safety
The best way to prevent heat related illnesses and death from hazardous heat conditions is to follow the precautions below.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
- Eat more frequently but make sure meals are balanced and light.
- Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
- Avoid dressing babies in heavy clothing or wrapping them in warm blankets.
- Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
- Salt tablets should only be taken if specified by your doctor. If you are on a salt-restrictive diet, check with a doctor before increasing salt intake.
- If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
- Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible unless you're sure your body has a high tolerance for heat.
- Make sure pets have plenty of water.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
- Ask your doctor about any prescription medicine you keep refrigerated. (If the power goes out, most medicine will be fine to leave in a closed refrigerator for at least 3 hours.)
- Keep a few bottles of water in your freezer; if the power goes out, move them to your refrigerator and keep the doors shut.
- Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler; then gradually build up tolerance for warmer conditions.
- Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun block and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes when outdoors.
- At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
- Avoid sunburn: it slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.