The CDC reports over 600 deaths in the United States each and every year due to extreme heat. Climbing summertime temperatures and extreme humidity combine to broil regions with days or even weeks of punishing heat that can see people’s bodies unable to cope with the stresses.
Heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke result, and vulnerable populations pay the price.
Statistically, heat waves are the most dangerous weather events you can face by annual deaths, and most places on Earth will experience temperature spikes high enough to reach these levels.
You can improve your chances of getting through a heat wave in good shape by stocking the right stuff, the same as any disaster.
In this article, we will tell you about 5 items you should definitely have stockpiled for coping with extreme heat wave events.
Heat Wave Survival
The biggest threat posed by extreme heat is the interference and reduction in efficiency with the body’s own cooling mechanisms. High temperature (over 90°F, or 32°C) and humidity work in concert to greatly slow the evaporation of sweat, the body’s primary evaporative cooling mechanism.
This makes it far harder for the body to cool down and in the right circumstances will see the core temperature start to rise. This is when you get into the danger zone.
If the core temperature rises faster than what meager cooling sweating can provide under heat wave conditions, you start to suffer. First with heat cramps, which are spasms in major muscle groups of the arms and legs along with the abdomen.
After that you’ll get heat exhaustion, which can cause paleness, severe cramping, weakness, nausea and headaches. Some people may faint.
Lastly, you really get into trouble: heat stroke. Heat stroke happens when the body temperature climbs above 103°F (39°C). Extreme confusion, unconsciousness and even death may occur.
This whole time, you will have been sweating profusely, losing copious fluids and, just as importantly, electrolytes.
A big part of heat wave survival is just staying in cool areas, and replacing fluids and electrolytes constantly. If you can do that, and are not an otherwise vulnerable member of the population you should be okay.
Especially vulnerable people include:
- Athletes: Anyone who is exerting themselves even harder during extreme temperatures will be dehydrating faster than usual and even more susceptible to heat-induced illness.
- Outdoor Workers: Vulnerable for the same reasons athletes are.
- Infants and Children: Children are almost entirely dependent on others to keep them cool and hydrated.
- Low-Income Families: People with limited financial resources may not have the funds to run air-conditioning at all times, or even have air-conditioning.
- Obese: Fat is a good heat insulator and the obese will be struggling against even more insulation during a time they need to be shedding heat.
- Elderly: The elderly are simply more vulnerable to high temperature and the effects o heat-related illness.
If you or any of your family fit into the above categories you’ll have to double your caution and your preparation for dealing with extreme heat wave events.
5 Items You Should Stockpile for Heat Wave Readiness
You want to stock up on blankets and shades to be ready for the next heat wave event simply because you want to keep as much sunlight and heat from entering your home through windows as possible.
You can use any thick, opaque sheet to block the sun’s rays from entering your home. Doing so will keep the interior temperature significantly cooler.
If you can, stick with opaque fabrics that are white or bright, light colors since their reflective index will shed more heat than darker colors. Hang up your shades without any gaps where light can sneak through.
2. Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil rocks for heat wave preparation. You can kind of think of it like plywood for hurricanes; it is your first and basic line of defense.
You can use aluminum foil by smoothing it out on a sheet of cardboard that will snugly fit inside your windows as a sort of improvised reflector. While this looks tacky, it works wonderfully for keeping the inside of your house cool.
Don’t forget you can use the exact same trick on skylights, front door sidelights, transom windows, palladiums and other oddly-shaped or placed windows that will let the sun’s blazing rays into your home.
Simply stencil out your cardboard panels, smooth out and glue you’re your foil and you are in business. Don’t get lazy here and just stick aluminum foil in the window; the cardboard is an important central element.
Keep the aluminum foil flat which will increase its reflective properties, and also serve as another insulation barrier, keeping conductive heat out.
3. Box Fans
Resist the temptation to use box fans for keeping yourself cool; it is an unpopular opinion, but the science is sound and the sign says these don’t help you cool down when ambient air temperatures are already too high along with the humidity.
Instead, think like a prepper, and start shaping the environment around you to better support life. Use your box fans to move masses of accumulating hot air out of your home.
These work wonderfully in the attic, since hot air accumulates there and reduces your home’s ability to cool itself. You can also set up a series of box fans to shuffle hot air out of the room that you are staying in predominately while inside your home.
Only when you lower the air temperature, or at least keep it from skyrocketing, will your body be able to cool itself effectively.
You knew water was going to be on this list. You have to be prepared for the worst in an extreme heat event, and the worst is being trapped somewhere without air conditioning. If you are forced to face ambient air temps, you are going to be sweating buckets and that means losing water by the gallon, literally.
The only way to combat this is to drink water and plenty of it. You should be sipping on water more or less constantly. If you feel thirsty, it is already too late. For general emergencies, a gallon of drinking water per person, per day is adequate, but not for a heat wave.
At the minimum you should have two gallons per person, per day if you live in a hot environment or anticipating an extreme heat survival situation. If you live in an extremely arid or desert environment, 3 gallons of drinking water per person, per day is definitely not out of the question.
5. Electrolyte Replacement Fluid/Powder
Loss of electrolytes, specifically salt and sugar through sweating is the follow-up shot in the 1-2 punch of copious fluid loss suffered during heat waves.
When your body sheds too many electrolytes, vital processes in your cells start to malfunction and then shut down. It will also interfere with your body’s uptake of water itself, so you definitely can’t afford to let this happen when the temperature rises.
The go-to electrolyte replacements for most people are sports drinks, but hardcore nutritionists will throw a penalty flag on these since many of them contain way too much sugar.
Keep an eye out for ones that are low in sugar, and generally contain clean ingredients, and you can also consider using electrolyte replacement powders that you can simply pour into a handy bottle of water, shake up and a drink.
Using these powders will make transporting them much more convenient, and save room in your stores since you already have a ton of bottled water in there, right?
Your intake schedule for electrolyte replacement fluid will vary depending on your age, health and some other factors, so consult your physician before you decide to guzzle nothing but Gatorade all day long during the heat wave (sarcasm!).
Heat wave survival is not rocket science, but you must be prepared. Having the right items to help control runaway temperatures inside your home and keep water and replacement electrolytes steadily moving into your system is all you can really do to combat extreme heat waves on the material front.
Make sure you nab plenty of the above items so you can beat the heat when the mercury starts climbing!
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.