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Knowing how to respond to a heat wave can potentially save your life (or someone else's). Between 2010 and 2019, nearly 600 California residents are reported as having died as a result of heat exposure. As shocking as that number is, experts agree that it's likely an underestimate—the real number could be as high as 3,900 people.

Fortunately, with the right preparation and knowledge, many heat-related deaths are preventable. Here, we'll cover some of the most fundamental heat wave safety practices:

  • Know the signs of heat stroke. Being able to identify the signs of heat-related illnesses (either in yourself or others) can ensure that you're able to take action and get help quickly. Muscle cramps, heavy sweating, tiredness, dizziness, headaches, and nausea can all be signs of a dangerously high body temperature.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. During a heat wave, it's extremely important to drink a lot of water, even if you don't feel thirsty. Consider also adding a sports drink to the mix to help replenish important minerals and electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks, which will dehydrate you.
  • Stay inside. During a heat wave, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible, especially in the middle of the day (~10am-3pm). If staying indoors all day isn't possible for you, try to limit your time outside to the mornings and evenings, when the worst of the heat has passed.
  • Keep your home cool. During the hottest part of the day, use the following heat wave safety tips to keep your home as cool as possible:
    • close the windows
    • cover sun-facing windows with shades, drapes, or awnings
    • hang up wet towels
    • turn off any non-essential lights and electrical devices

      Keep in mind that while electric fans can help make you more comfortable, they shouldn't be considered a replacement for air conditioners, and they don't always prevent heat-related illnesses.

      If you're still uncomfortably hot, take cool showers during the day to bring your body temperature down. Remember to wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Check in on others. Elderly individuals, individuals who are chronically ill or overweight, infants and children, and people who work outside are usually at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses. If you know someone who falls into one of those categories, check in on them regularly during the heat wave.

Spectrum Community Services is committed to improving the quality of life for low-income families, seniors, and individuals in Alameda County. Through financial assistance and other services, our goal is to support community members in building healthy, safe, and independent lives. Contact us to learn more about our services, or consider making a donation to support our work. We can't wait to work with you!