AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you live in Central Texas, you know just how hot it can get during the summer.
Sometimes the heat can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said each year, an average of about 658 people succumb to extreme heat.
While it’s common for Texas homes to have air conditioning, if a power outage occurs, it can be difficult to find relief or stay cool. Here’s how you can survive in the heat when there’s an emergency like that.
What you can do at home
Safeelectricity.org advises you to first call your electric provider to report your power outage.
The website also said you can use use natural ventilation like battery-powered fans and windows to help cool down. Drapes and blinds facing the sun should be closed.
The blog New Live on a Homestead even suggests sealing off rooms that get the most sunlight by shutting doors and putting a towel on the bottom opening to keep hot air tucked away.
Fridge and freezer doors should remain shut to keep foods fresh. Safeelectricity.org said half-full or full freezers can keep foods frozen anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. In an unopened fridge, meat, milk and other dairy products can stay for up to four hours. After then it’s best to remove those foods and pack it in a cooler with ice, safeelectricity.org said.
Taking care of your body
Safeelectricity.org said to stay hydrated by drinking water. Caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals should be avoided.
Also wear loose, lightweight clothing and stay on the coolest, lowest level of your home. That’s because hot air floats upward. The basement is a good option.
Crisis Equipped suggests freezing soaked bandanas or towels ahead of time to use when needed to cool down your body. You can still use the same method if you don’t get to freeze the bandanas or towels — just soak using cold water.
The National Weather Service said outdoor strenuous activities should be avoided or rescheduled until the coolest part of the day.
A first-aid kit should be readily available in your home and car.
Know the signs of heat-related illnesses
According to the CDC, there are several different types of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. All of them vary in symptoms.
During a heat stroke, for example, people can pass out, experience a high body temperature (103°F or higher), have hot, red, dry or damp skin, a fast, strong pulse, headaches, dizziness, nausea and/or confusion.
When someone is having a heat stroke, you should call 911 right away and move the person to a cooler spot. You can also try lowering the person’s body temp with cool cloths or a cool bath. You should not give them anything to drink.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion can be heavy sweating, cold, pale and clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headaches and fainting.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, place cool, wet cloths on your body or take a bath and sip water. If you start vomiting or your symptoms get worse, the CDC said you should get medical attention.
For a full list of heat-related illness symptoms and how to treat them, you can visit the CDC’s website.
Check in with the elderly, your neighbors
AARP advises everyone to check on older residents, neighbors and the medically vulnerable in the event of a power outage during hot weather.
“Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone, but it can be especially dangerous for those with chronic medical conditions,” said AARP Texas Director Tina Tran in June 2021. “If you or someone you know has a chronic medical condition, follow the appropriate steps to help keep you, or the person in your care, safe.”
The NWS also advises you to check on young children, infants and pregnant women during extreme heat events.
Young kids and infants are vulnerable to heat-related illness and death, because their bodies don’t adapt as easily to heat.
For pregnant women, NWS said extreme heat has been associated with things like low birth weight, preterm birth and infant mortality.
Cooling shelters, heading to another spot
If it’s possible, you can spend most of your day in a public location with air conditioning, like a library or mall.
Sometimes, your county or city might open up a cooling shelter to help with power outages or those experiencing homelessness during hot temperatures.
Make sure you have a way of receiving that shelter information from your local officials. A good way to stay connected is to follow your local Emergency Management agencies on social media. Here are a few social media accounts you can follow, depending on your area:
- Austin Emergency Management: Twitter | Facebook
- Travis County Emergency Services: Twitter | Facebook
- Preparing WilCo: Twitter | Facebook
- City of Round Rock: Twitter | Facebook
- City of Georgetown: Twitter
- City of San Marcos: Twitter | Facebook
- City of Kyle: Twitter | Facebook
- Hays County Office of Emergency Services: Twitter | Facebook
- Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management: Facebook
- Burnet County Government: Facebook
- Blanco County Emergency Management: Facebook
- City of Llano, Texas – City Hall: Facebook
- Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management: Twitter | Facebook
- Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Texas: Facebook
You can also sign up for alerts by either text, email or phone from Warn Central Texas. This system sends out emergency alerts for natural disasters, weather warnings, evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices and missing child reports.
Here are a few blogs that have published tips on how to survive in extreme heat.
- 10 Tips for staying cool during an intermittent power outage/heat wave emergency
- 25 Clever Ways to Survive the Heat Without Electricity
- Getting through a heatwave without electricity
- How to Prepare for Extreme Heat: A Guide + Checklist
- 20 Ways to Stay Cool Without Power
- Stay Safe During Extreme Heat and Power Outages