Houston activates emergency heat plan; tips to help residents protect themselves

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HOUSTON — The Houston Health Department (HHD) urges residents to protect themselves from heat-related illness and death. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat advisory for the Houston region through Saturday and it will likely be extended.

The City of Houston has activated its Heat Emergency Plan. Houston activates the plan when the heat index, a computation of air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two consecutive days.

High-risk groups, such as adults age 55 and older, children under the age of five and people with chronic illness are urged to stay inside air-conditioned buildings between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

Anyone without access to air-conditioning can seek shelter during business hours at city multi-service centers, libraries or recreation centers.
A map of open cooling centers is available online. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

People without adequate air conditioning and need to use city facilities to cool off can do the following:

1) Use their own transportation resources to access a city-owned library or multi-service center during normal operating hours (available online at houstontx.gov/emergency)
2) If a resident does not have adequate transportation, they may call 3-1-1 (713.837.0311) to request a ride on METRO to an available cooling center.

The city has designated 47 public city facilities to act as cooling centers during periods of extreme heat during their normal business hours.
Some facilities are closed or have limited hours on weekends, so it is necessary for residents to use the map at houstontx.gov/emergency or call 311 to find an open facility.

HHD recommends people take precautions against high heat and humidity to prevent illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. To prevent heat-related illnesses:

• Increase water consumption. Drink lots of liquids even before getting thirsty, but avoid those with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
• Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when it is cooler. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of water or electrolyte-replacement beverages and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility. Those unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks.
• Check on the elderly. Take the initiative to visit seniors to look for signs of heat-related illnesses. It takes the elderly nearly twice the time of younger people to return to core body temperature after exposure to extreme temperatures. A phone call to the frail elderly is not sufficient to determine the condition of the senior or the home.
• Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration.
• Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a vehicle.
• A wide-brimmed hat helps prevent sunburn as well as heat-related illness. Sunscreen also protects from the sun’s harmful rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
• If the house is not air-conditioned, seek accommodations in air-conditioned facilities during the heat of the day: malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc.
• Take frequent cool baths or showers if your home is not air-conditioned.
• Electric fans should only be used in conjunction with an air conditioner. A fan can’t change the temperature of a room; it can only accelerate air movement, and will accelerate the body’s overheating.

Stay alert to heat advisories. The National Weather Service declares a Heat Emergency when the heat index, a computation of the air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two or more consecutive days. A heat index of 108 is a potential health threat for all people and is particularly dangerous for high-risk groups.


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