Heat and Drought
Severe heat, often combined with the high humidity in much of the state during the summer, can create serious health risks. The elderly, infants, and those with certain chronic illnesses, such as asthma, are particularly at risk, especially if air conditioning is not available. During periods of extreme heat, staying in an air-conditioned area is the most effective way to prevent heat-related illnesses. If air-conditioning is not available, pull the shades over the windows and use cross-ventilation and fans to cools rooms. Cold showers and baths are other effective ways to stay cool.
A drought, which is caused by long periods of minimal rainfall, can lead to well failures in homes not served by municipal water, and can limit the ability of municipal systems to provide water because of low river and reservoir levels or well failure. Droughts can also cause major problems in the agricultural community.
Before an Emergency
- Check your well pump periodically. If the automatic pump turns on and off while water is not being used, you have a leak.
- Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Once established, plants adapted to your local climate do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Small plants require less water to become established. Group plants together based on similar water needs.
- Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
- Consider rainwater harvesting where practical.
- Contact your local water provider for information and assistance.
- Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
- Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.
- Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool.
During an Emergency
- Avoid taking baths—take short showers—turn on water only to get wet and lather and then again to rinse off.
- Avoid letting the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.
- Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.
- Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the "light wash" feature, if available, to use less water.
- Hand wash dishes by filling two containers—one with soapy water and the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator. Do not let the tap run while you are waiting for water to cool.
- Avoid wasting water waiting for it to get hot. Capture it for other uses such as plant watering or heat it on the stove or in a microwave.
- Avoid rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher; just remove large particles of food. (Most dishwashers can clean soiled dishes very well, so dishes do not have to be rinsed before washing).
- Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.
- A heavy rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Most of the year, lawns only need one inch of water per week.
- If your lawn does require watering, do so early in the morning or later in the evening, when temperatures are cooler.
- Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
Avoid heat-related illness:
- Never leave infants, children or pets inside a parked vehicle.
- Increase fluid intake, regardless of activity level. Don't wait until thirsty to drink fluids; drink more liquid than one's thirst indicates.
- Avoid "heat hangover." Continue to drink fluids even after strenuous activity. This will enable the body to maintain optimum hydration, and help prevent the after effects of heat exposure such as headaches and fatigue.
- Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar as they dehydrate the body.
- Avoid very cold beverages as they cause stomach cramps.
- Limit exercise or outdoor activity between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is at its peak intensity. If active during this time frame, drink a minimum of 16 to 32 ounces of water each hour. Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, may increase the risk of heat related illness. Consult your physician if you have questions.
- Wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15. Apply at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors, and re-apply as necessary.
- Rest frequently in shady areas so that the body's temperature has a chance to recover.
- If unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, gradually increase the pace and limit exercise or work time.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing; sunglasses to protect the eyes; and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep the head cool.
- Take special precautions with infants and young.