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From the Director: July. It’s Hot
July 8, 2010
For the first time in a number of years, parts of Maine are experiencing a true heat wave – 3 days or more of 90-degree heat. In addition, humidity has been high during this stretch, driving the heat index (a measure of heat plus the effects of humidity) up over 100 in some areas.
Why is the heat index important? The heat plus the humidity escalates the danger rapidly. To see how current conditions combine to create the heat index for your specific area, you can use this calculator from NOAA.
It’s ironic that we should be concerned about heat in the summer. It seems like over the past few years we’ve been more worried about the effects of cool and rainy summer weekends on our tourist economy. The truth, however, is that intense protracted heat can be life-threatening, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine Center for Disaster Control and Prevention, tells us that in the last 30 years, more people have died in this country from heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. We don’t often experience this type of protracted heat in Maine, and thus our awareness of the danger it poses is not as acute as it should be.
Dr. Mills and the Maine CDC have lots of suggestions for staying safe in the heat. It’s important for all of us to follow their advice. The most important advice of all, though, may be to check on our neighbors. Heat-related illness can kill. A friend who starts a fan, helps pull down the blinds or pours a glass of water could help ward off serious medical consequences.
For Public Officials:
One town tells us that rescue volunteers going door to door to check on vulnerable residents this week found at least two people in need of medical help due to the extreme heat. That same town has opened up its air conditioned town hall as a cooling shelter where resident can come during the day to escape their heat. They are also offering transportation to get people there.
This sort of community care I’m sure is going on in many other towns as well. But I’d ask all public officials to look at what they are doing to help their residents, and think about whether they can do more.
Any communities that are offering a cooling center or other services to their residents during this or any heat wave, please call 2-1-1 Maine (dial 2-1-1) to let them know. That way, any of your residents calling 211 for assistance will know what is available in your town.
Summer recreation or school summer athletic programs also need to be especially mindful of the heat. The MaineCDC has provided us with fact sheets on Heat and Athletes and Heat Illness in Youth that contain a wealth of safety information. You’ll find these and much more heat safety information at MainePrepares.com.
For Business Owners:
Do you have a space with air conditioning that you could offer as a cooling center? Let your town officials know, and make sure 2-1-1 Maine is notified.
Provide your employees with heat safety tips, and be generous with their time if they need to check on or assist neighbors and family members. And certainly, if your business employs people working outdoors, put your workers’ safety first. Review all of the heat safety available from the MaineCDC and Maine Prepares.
Yes, it is unfamiliar for us in Maine to look on heat as a hazard. Usually, thinking of summer is how we get through Maine winters! With a little more attention to the hazards of severe heat, we can get through this or any other heat wave safely, and get back to enjoying our summer in Maine.
I welcome your opinion. Please, give me your thoughts.
Rob McAleer, Director, Maine Emergency Management Agency
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