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Extreme Heat 2023

Extreme heat, often referred to as a "heat wave", is an extended period of high temperature usually accompanied by high humidity. Extreme heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. Older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight are more likely to be severely affected by extreme heat.

When authorities monitor extreme heat conditions the term "heat index" is used. This index measures the effects of heat and humidity. When heat and humidity combine to reduce the amount of evaporation of sweat from the body, outdoor exercise becomes dangerous even for those in good shape. In the District, the Heat Emergency Plan is activated when the heat index reaches 95 degrees.

To learn more, visit

For a list of the District's cooling centers, click here


Use the following tips to prepare your home, family and pets before extreme heat

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Build or re-stock your Emergency Kit.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. It is important to know how you will contact one another, how and where you will meet and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Purchase plenty of drinking water to keep hydrated.
  • Check your home’s air conditioning units (which would include checking your air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation) and fans to make sure they are working properly.
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Cover windows receiving morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can lower the heat that comes in a home by up to 80 percent.
  • Know those in your neighborhood who are senior citizens, young, sick, or overweight. These neighbors are more likely to be harmed by excessive heat and may need help.
  • Get trained in first aid to know how to handle heat related emergencies.



Use the following tips to protect yourself and your family during an extreme heat event:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • If you need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area.
  • Watch for symptoms of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
    • Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign the body is having trouble with the heat.
    • Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion.
    • Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning. Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. Get more information on heat related illness here.
  • Limit exposure to the sun, and avoid hard work between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Apply sunscreen (SPF 15-30 is recommended) at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid drinks with caffeine.
  • Eat well-balanced, light meals.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Turn on the air-conditioner or fan.
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothes.
  • Visit one of the District's cooling centers located throughout the city, if you do not have access to a cool-temperature location.
  • Do not leave children or pets in vehicles.
  • Hot and humid conditions can particularly dangerous for pets. Check on your furry friends frequently and encourage them to drink water. Walk pets early in the morning and avoid being outdoors in the middle of the day if possible. It's important to note pets can also experience heat exhaustion. If you are hot, so are they! For all animal emergencies, including animals left outside in extreme heat or in vehicles, call the Humane Rescue Alliance at (202) 723-5730.



Use the following tips to recover safely after an extreme heat event:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Continue to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, also check on your pets and make sure they are hydrated.
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children, the elderly or people with disabilities or access and functional needs.

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