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Managing the heat:

The latest advice from safety and emergency services experts on how to manage the heat.
By Motherpedia
Date: January 01 2015
Editor Rating:
heat_wave

With summer in our midst, safety and emergency services experts from around Australia have put together this guide on how best to manage the heat. For detailed information and advice, please visit your state's rural fire service website.

Top 4

  1. Drink plenty of water
  2. Keep cool
  3. Take care of others who may be alone or vulnerable (eg. older neighbour)
  4. Have a plan for what to do

Personal

  • Regularly check your local forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology on your radio, TV or on the internet. See www.bom.gov.au
  • Check with your doctor about whether your medication and/or your medical conditions may affect what you should do if it gets extremely hot.
  • If your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much to drink in hot weather.
  • Check that you can store your medication at less than 25°C  (the medication can become less effective or occasionally toxic if stored at higher temperatures – check with your pharmacist if unsure).
  • Make sure you know who you are going to call in case you need help. Have a list of the telephone numbers in your phone and somewhere else.
  • If you are affected by bushfires, call 000 immediately.
  • Do not leave your child or pet unattended - in the house, in the car, in the pool or at the beach.
  • If you are out in the sun, ensure that you have sunscreen, head protection and water.

In your house or apartment

  • Check your fridges, freezers, fans and air-conditioners to make sure they work properly and make sure your air conditioning is set to cool.
  • Stock up on food (for your household and pets), water and medicines to last up to a week so you don’t have to go out in a heat wave.
  • Consider buying cool packs to have in the fridge or freezer to help you cool down if needed.
  • Put together a small emergency kit to plan for a possible power failure – this may include a torch, batteries, candles, matches, a battery operated radio and a first aid kit.
  • Create a cool room or cool area to go to during extreme heat. This room or area ideally should be east or south facing in the house and can be cooled using indoor and outdoor shading, ventilation and use of a fan or air-conditioning.
  • Consider the risk of bushfires as they often occur on days of high temperature.

Your pets

Animals suffer heat exhaustion too. The first signs are panting excessively, salivating and become increasingly agitated. A vet should be consulted immediately if pets show any of these signs, or starts vomiting.

  • Do not leave your pet dog or cat unattended for an extended length of time in hot weather. If you can’t be home, make sure someone reliable is keeping a regular watch on your pet to see how they’re going.
  • Make sure there is fresh, cold water and shade available at all times.
  • Even if you don’t have your pet inside normally, a very hot day may be the day to make the exception (you can always vacuum the floor when the heat is gone).
  • If pets do overheat, owners can cool them with lukewarm water and wrap them in wet towels. Do not use very cold water.
  • Do not leave a pet unattended in a vehicle.

If fire threatens

  • The levels of warning for a fire are:  Advice; Watch and Act; and Emergency Warning.
  • You should decide what to do if threatened with bushire before you have to make the decision about what to do. The safest option is for you and your family to leave early.
  • However, sometimes things don't go to plan and you need a back-up plan. If you don't know of your local Neighbourhood Safe Place, check it out now via your state's rural fire service.
  • It's important you have easy access to items which may save your life. You may like to have these packed and ready to go. These include:
    • battery operated radio
    • waterproof torch
    • spare batteries for both
    • first aid kit
    • candles and something to light them with
    • woollen blankets
    • emergency contact numbers
    • waterproof bag for valuables.
  • When you leave the house, you should also take
    • any cash you have as well as ATM cards and credit cards
    • medications, toiletires and sanitary supplies
    • special requirements for infants, older people, people with a disability or who are injured
    • mobile phone and charger
    • combination pocket knife
    • passport, photos and other personal and portable valuables
    • change of clothes for everyone
    • drinking water for everyone (up to 3 litres per person) including your pet.
  • The heat from a bushfire is intense. Make sure you wear clothing that will protect you, such as long sleeve shirt, long trousers, sturdy shoes/boots, protective googles, wide-brimmed hat.
  • It is important that you keep up-to-date during a bushfire so know beforehand where you are going to access that information. This is different in every state, so you should start with your state's fire service - just google "[your state] rural fire service" and you will get the right results. The ABC local radio website for your state or region generally contains relevant information also. 

Planning for future summers

You may not have thought of these things, or be able to do anything about them for this summer, but plan ahead for next summer of even later this summer as there is likely to be another heat wave wherever you are.

  • Check that your home can be properly ventilated without compromising security.
  • If possible, have curtains with pale linings in rooms that get a lot of sunlight to help reflect the heat. Avoid dark reflective curtain linings and metal Venetian blinds as they absorb heat and may make rooms hotter.
  • Consider putting external blinds, shutters or some other shading on windows in rooms which face west.
  • Insulate your house – not only will this keep it cool in summer, but it will also keep it warm in winter.
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