Firefighters called to more than 600 heat emergencies this year

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on August 23, 2011 at 7:34 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 23 at 10:45 AM

PHOENIX – As an excessive heat warning, now in its second day, expands to cover a larger area, the Phoenix Fire Department is warning people to be extra careful and hydrate, even if they’re staying mostly indoors.

With another record-breaking day ahead – the high is forecast to be somewhere between 115 and 117 degrees in the Phoenix metro area Tuesday – it’s important to remember that heat can be a matter of life and death.

According to the National Weather Service, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S., contrary to what many people think.

Phoenix firefighters say they have responded to more than 600 heat emergencies already this year.

While most of the victims have been elderly, nobody is immune to the danger extreme heat presents.

“We do see young, 20-, 30-year-old people who do die from heat stroke,” said Phoenix Fire Capt. Scott Walker. “What happens, basically, is your exposure is just too long. Your body temperature goes up.”

Heat stroke occurs when the body's core temperature rises to 104 degrees or above. It can be fatal if not treated promptly.

“The danger signs are when you stop sweating,” said Dr. Nicholas Vasquez earlier in the summer, explaining that the people most susceptible to heat-related illnesses are those who cannot get out of the heat, the very young, the elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions.

When it comes to dehydration and heat-related illnesses, the best defense is a good offense. Thirst is not a good indication of hydration so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, particularly before and during any kind of exercise or exertion. It's best to avoid caffeine as it can exacerbate heat-related illnesses.

If you have to be outside, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening if possible. Wear lightweight, loose, light-colored clothing. A wide-brimmed hat will help keep your head and body cool. Be sure to plan plenty of breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area. Above all, make sure to hydrate.

To help combat heat-related illness, the Salvation Army has mobilized its hydration stations. Those stations are stocked with cold bottled water, hats and sunscreen, all of which is given away free to anyone who needs them.
Click here for a list of Hydration Station locations

Salvation Army volunteers said they’ve handed out more water than ever this year. Because of that, they are asking for the public to help out. You can drop off donations at the Salvation Army headquarters at 27th and Van Buren streets in Phoenix.

Daytime highs for August generally average out to about 104 degrees. This year, we're averaging slightly more than 107.

With a high of 113 degrees Monday, we broke the old record of 111 set in 1999.

3TV meteorologist April Warnecke is calling for a high of 115 degrees Tuesday and Wednesday, and 112 on Thursday. Those temperatures will either tie or break the current records.
Click here for the latest forecast

The National Weather Service said the 115 that’s forecast for Tuesday could be a bit low. They said the high could climb as high as 117.

Overnight lows at Sky Harbor International Airport will be in the upper 80s, closing in on 90 degrees.

"So far, the first three weeks of August are on track to break the all-time hottest August for Phoenix," wrote 3TV Chief Meteorologist Royal Norman.

Those extremely warm overnight lows we've been experiencing all month are a big reason for that.

The current excessive heat warning put in place by the National Weather Service will remain in effect until 8 p.m. Thursday. The warning covered Maricopa and northwest Pinal counties, including Gila Bend, Buckeye, Mesa, Phoenix, New River, Wickenburg, Apache Junction, Casa Grande and Florence.

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