As temperatures in our region are on the rise, Mercer County Department of Human Services, Health, and Emergency Management offer tips and information on how residents can prepare for the extreme heat.
“The best way to survive the heat is to plan ahead for hot days and know what to do when the heat hits,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. Hot weather can impact everyone, regardless of age or condition, but some people are more at risk than others. People most at risk include those over age 65, individuals with medical conditions, those taking medications that may affect the way the body reacts to heat, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, babies and young children, those who are overweight or obese, individuals who work or exercise outdoors, and even those residents who may have recently arrived from cooler climates.
To prepare for extreme heat, residents can prepare in a number of ways including stocking up on food, water and medicines; checking with your doctor to determine if changes are needed to your medicines during extreme heat; storing medicines safely at the recommended temperature; checking that your fan or air-conditioner works well; and looking at things you can do to make our home cooler.
Power failures are also possible during times of extremely hot weather. Be prepared by ensuring that you have a fully-charged phone, battery-operated radio and spare batteries. Stock up on food items that do not require refrigeration or cooking, and have plenty of drinking water available. Outages can be reported at PSE&G, 1-800-436-7734 and at Jersey Central Power & Light1-800-662-3115.
Know the signs of heat-related illness and the ways to respond to it. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion can result in muscle pains or spasms, heavy sweating, paleness, weakness, dizziness, headache or fainting. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should go to a cooler location, loosen or remove clothing, takes sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar, and get medical help if the symptoms last more than an hour.
Signs of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees taken orally); red, hot and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness. If seeing these symptoms, call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever means necessary until medical help arrives.
Mercer County’s Department of Human Services Office on Aging also encourages residents to be particularly mindful of the elderly as the temperature rises, and to check in on elderly neighbors, friends and relatives.
Residents should call 911 immediately in an emergency, from any wired or wireless phone. Call 911 and act fast if you see anyone in danger during a heat emergency. Never leave children or pets alone in hot vehicles. Even with the windows rolled down, only minutes in a hot car can be deadly.
During extreme heat, there are plenty of ways to cope:
- Drink plenty of water, even if you’re not thirsty;
- Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water, and by taking cool showers;
- Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings;
- Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds;
- Open the windows when there is a cool breeze;
- Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you do have to go outside, wear a hat and sunscreen and seek shade;
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers like cotton and linen;
- Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads;
- Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored;
- Avoid heavy activity like sports, renovating, and gardening; and,
- Watch or listen to news reports to find out more information during extreme heat.
The Department of Human Services reminds residents that Mercer County also offers designatedcooling sitesincluding all municipal senior centers and all Mercer County Library System branches. Call individual locations for daily hours of operation. These locations are open to all residents.
The following Mercer County library branches are cooling sites: Ewing, Hickory Corner, Hightstown, Hollowbrook, Hopewell, Lawrence, Robbinsville, Twin Rivers and West Windsor.
The following municipal senior centers are cooling sites: Hamilton, Ewing, Pennington/Hopewell Valley, Jennye Stubblefield, Lawrence Township, Princeton Senior Resource Center, Reading, Sam Naples and Robbinsville Township.
For assistance in coping with the heat or to contact your local cooling site, please call the Mercer County Office on Aging at (609) 989-6661 or toll-free (877) 222-3737. During non-business hours, residents are encouraged to call 911 if they experience heat-related problems.
Heat is often referred to as the “silent killer,” in contrast to tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural hazards with more dramatic visual effects. For more information regarding heat-related emergencies and a list of the County Emergency Management Offices, please visit www.ready.nj.gov, www.ready.gov/heat, or the National Weather Service Heat Safety page: www.weather.gov/om/heat/index.shtml. Call 2-1-1, New Jersey’s toll-free, confidential help line, for information about heat safety resources.