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District of Columbia Bracing for Extreme Heat Conditions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
City Officials Activate 2012 Heat Plan

(Washington, DC) - The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Heat Advisory for the National Capital Region (NCR) beginning at noon today, Wednesday, June 20, extended through 10:00 a.m. Thursday, June 21.  Over the next two days the heat index is expected to reach in excess of 100 degrees.  District government officials plan to put in motion the City’s 2012 Heat Plan.

The District of Columbia Government, through the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), will implement the District Heat Emergency Plan when the temperature or heat index reaches 95º. The heat index is a measurement of the air temperature in relation to the relative humidity, used as an indicator of the perceived temperature. Extreme heat causes significant impacts to individuals residing in public facilities, public housing, senior residential facilities, senior centers, and homeless shelters throughout the city. District agencies will activate their internal plans to ensure their residents, employees, and the public are protected against extreme heat.

HSEMA encourages residents, workers and visitors to seek places you can visit to beat the heat. DC Recreation Centers, DC Public Libraries and DC Senior Wellness Centers as well as the many museums and monuments located throughout the City are all great places to remain cool and these sites are open to the public. These locations provide not only a cool place to rest, but often provide water and activities.  Visit www.dc.gov  to find a recreation center near you, or call the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311 for assistance.

Know the difference between an advisory and a warning. A heat advisory issued by the National Weather Service means that extreme heat is likely. A heat warning means that extreme heat is likely and can pose a threat to life if proper precautions are not taken.

In addition to the Heat Advisory, the air-quality forecast is Code Orange for today.  Individuals with lung disease, asthma, small children and the elderly are most vulnerable to these conditions.  As a protective action, they should remain inside to avoid unhealthy outdoor and extreme heat.

Extreme Heat Preparedness and Protective Measures

During extreme heat conditions take the following precautions:

• Stay indoors as much as possible.
• Turn on the air-conditioner or fan.
• DO NOT leave children or pets in vehicles.
• Pay special attention to young children the elderly and the mentally ill.
• Drink plenty of water.
• Wear light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothes.
• Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside (SPF 15-30 is best).
• Limit exposure to the sun (the sun is most powerful between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.).
• Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
• If you do not have access to a cool-temperature location, visit one of the District’s cooled indoor facilities referred to above.

Also keep in mind that hot and humid conditions can cause many medical problems, such as heat stroke and exhaustion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider heat stroke to be the most serious heat-related illness. According to CDC, “heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.”

Symptoms of heat stroke:
• Hot, dry skin (no sweating)
• Hallucinations
• Chills
• Throbbing headache
• High body temperature
• Confusion/dizziness
• Slurred speech

Groups at greatest risk for heat-related illness:
• Infants
• Children up to four years of age
• People 65 years of age and older
• People who are overweight
• People who are ill or on certain medications.

Groups at greatest risk should be monitored carefully, and their environments should be regulated. The CDC recommends that those at greatest risk be closely monitored and visited at least twice a day to view for possible signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
D.C. Water and Fire and EMS officials want to remind the public that unauthorized fire-hydrant use is unlawful, dangerous and damaging.
For information about water for the homeless, contact United Planning Organization at (202) 399-7093. For additional information, visit the Emergency Information Center at www.72hours.dc.gov.