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Caution urged as first heat wave of year approaches

West Virginia Emergency Management Division asks everyone to take steps to stay safe and cool

As the first heat wave of 2024 sweeps across the nation, the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) urges everyone to learn and practice heat safety to stay safe and cool. With temperatures rising, it’s crucial for all populations, especially caregivers of and those in vulnerable groups (like infants, children, and adults over 65) to plan ahead.

“West Virginia is facing a significant heat wave for this time of year,” said WVEMD Director GE McCabe. “It’s very important that we all take precautions to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our pets. Stay hydrated, stay cool, and check on your neighbors.” 

Heat Safety Tips

1. Stay Hydrated– Drink lots of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid sugary, caffeinated drinks and alcohol as they can cause dehydration. If you’re active, consider sports drinks to replace salts and minerals.

2. Keep Cool– Spend time in places with air conditioning. Malls, libraries, or cooling centers can be used to help.

  • Pets, children, and incapacitated adults should never be left in a parked car. If you see a pet, person, or child in a hot car, call 911 immediately.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning at home, use fans and take cool showers or baths. 
  • ​When outdoors, wear loose, light-colored clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

​3. Limit Outdoor Activities– Schedule outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day. Take frequent breaks in cool areas, avoid heavy meals, and stay out of direct sunlight.

  • Children and pets can be burned by hot pavement or sidewalks. Plan walks and play time for cooler hours of the day.
    • Check the sidewalk temperature by placing your hand on the surface for five seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for kids and pets.
  • Playground equipment also becomes quite hot. Check the surfaces before allowing kids to play. 
  • Historically, the coolest parts of the day in West Virginia are before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. The hottest parts of the day are the hours between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. when the sun is strongest.

4. Recognize Heat-Related Illnesses– Learn the symptoms of heat exhaustion (heavy sweating, weakness, nausea, dizziness, thirst) and heat stroke (throbbing headache, confusion, sweating may be reduced or absent) and seek immediate medical help if you or someone around you experiences these symptoms.

  • Muscle pain and cramping are often the first sign that your body is having trouble with the heat. If you experience muscle cramps, take a break and drink water or a sports drink. Find medical help if cramps last longer than one hour.
  • Check on older neighbors, kids, and pets often to ensure they’re well, hydrated, and cool.

5. Plan Ahead– Create an emergency kit with essential supplies including water and medications. Stay informed by monitoring local weather alerts and news updates.

  • The CDC’s HeatRisk Dashboard allows the user to enter their zip code and learn the heat risk and air quality for the week, in addition to tips to help you plan ahead. 

If you need assistance finding a cooling center, please contact your county or local emergency management agency.

Additional Resources:

Ready.gov:      Extreme Heat

Ready WV:      Extreme Heat and Summer Safety

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Extreme Heat Safety Tips

National Safety Council:  Surviving Hot Weather 

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