Cooling Centers and 7 Tips to Keep Cool in a Heat Wave

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Cooling Centers and 7 Tips to Keep Cool in a Heat Wave

ANALYSIS by Dr. Don Donahue, Director, Firestorm Healthcare Response Team


A heat wave impacting the eastern United States with record temperatures is set to continue while downed power lines from Indiana to Maryland due to an intense weekend weather system have left more than 3 million customers without power.

Although the winds are as damaging as a hurricane’s, a deracho doesn’t give the advance notice in the way a hurricane does, so many businesses and communities were taken by surprise by the intensity of the hurricane-force winds and subsequent damage.

High temperatures coupled with high humidity pushed the heat index to range between 105 and 115 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Heat advisories remained in effect into Sunday across the southeast and lower half of the Mississippi valley, with “triple-digit temperatures expected across the southern third of the country,” the National Weather Service said.

“It is very unsafe outdoors for those susceptible to these extreme conditions,” it warned in a statement.


Power crews worked around the clock to try to restore service to homes and businesses, and officials said in some areas power could be out for up to a week. Utilities in Ohio, Virginia and Maryland described damage to their power grids as catastrophic.

According to the CDC: “Heat waves are already the most deadly weather-related exposure in the U.S., and account for more deaths annually than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. Children and older adults are at greater risk from heat. Other risk factors for heat-related death include living alone, lack of air-conditioning, and use of certain medications. Additionally, there is an element of adjustment to heat as body processes change to compensate for increased temperatures; this can be protective during heat waves.”

Prince George’s County in Maryland opened cooling centers where local residents without power can seek refuge from the 100-degree weather that plagued their area. Residents are encouraged to follow @CountyExecBaker on Twitter or “County Executive Rushern Baker” on Facebook for information and updates.  The phone number to the Emergency Operation Center is 301-583-1950.

Scott Peterson, the county’s deputy manager of communications, said they’ve provided information about where to locate cooling centers through social media and online press releases that people can view with their smart phones if they don’t have power.

“We’ve been going through every means necessary to make sure they know we have places they can go to cool down,” Peterson said. “We’re highlighting what’s still open with power in the region like malls and hotels. Everyone’s working together.”

Emergency Management Coordinator Emily Ashley of Chesterfield County, Va., said the town’s local libraries will keep their doors open past normal hours, and though usually closed on Sundays, will also open on the 1st until 6 p.m.

For West Virginia Cooling Centers, see: Cooling Stations – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin – State of West Virginia


To find a cooling center near you, please call your local city or county.

7 Tips to Keep Cool in a Heat Wave

1. Wear loose fitting, lighter colored clothing.

2. If you don’t have air-conditioning, arrange to spend at least parts of the day in an air-conditioned environment: a cooling center, a shopping mall, public libraries, museums, movie theaters, mass transit, or other public spaces that are cool.  If staying in your home, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine if air conditioning or power are not available.

3. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face after being outdoors.

4. Drink plenty of water (cool, not cold) along with sports drinks or other sources of electrolytes. Avoid drinks containing alcohol, caffeine, or a lot of sugar, as these can accelerate dehydration. Start early and continue throughout the day.

  • Drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise and drink another 8 ounces for every 20 minutes of physical activity. Follow this advice even if you are not thirsty.
  • If you have an outdoor activity planned, cancel it or reschedule the activity for the early morning or sunset, when temperatures are not as intense
  • Pay attention to the color of your urine. A darker color is an indication of dehydration.

5. Remember that the elderly, infants, and those with chronic illnesses can dehydrate more easily and are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Observe for signs of heat-related illness such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and lack of perspiration in hot environments. If you suspect heat injury, seek medical help immediately.  Checking elderly and home-bound neighbors, relatives, and acquaintances during heat waves can be life-saving

6. Watch infants for signs of heat-related illness such as not producing tears when crying or fewer diaper changes.

7. Pets and livestock also need protection from dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Give them plenty of water.

What’s your best tip for keeping cool?

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