Summer Preparedness: Severe Weather & Extreme Heat
Summers in Colorado can bring severe weather, like hail and thunderstorms, as well as extreme heat days. The need for individuals, families and communities to prepare for a weather-related emergency and extreme heat is more important than ever.
Here are steps you and your family can take to minimize harm and damage from a severe weather emergency.
Before the Storm
- Make a family storm plan: Talk to all family members, including the little ones. Figure out where in your house you would gather in a storm. Are there any items you would need to collect? What about things to bring from outside, including pets? Make sure everyone knows where everything is located and who would be responsible for getting what. Then — practice!
- Know your neighbors: Your neighbors can be your best support system, and you can help neighbors who may need assistance, such as the elderly, people with infants or those with special health care needs. Talk with them about how you can work together — who might need help evacuating? Does anyone have health issues to consider?
- Evaluate your house: Find out if your roof is hail and high-wind resistant. Are windows and doors built to withstand the weather and debris? And, just like we make sure our pipes can withstand cold Colorado winters, make sure your drains can withstand rainy springs and summers. Check your drains every spring to make sure they aren’t blocked and are flowing away from the home.
- Trim your trees: Before a storm, make sure trees are trimmed to prevent branches from breaking and causing damage.
- Make an emergency preparedness kit: Find suggestions on what to include in your kit [external link]. Be sure to include copies of personal documents and contact lists, necessary medications and extra cash. We know it can get expensive, so focus on the necessities first.
During the Storm
- Seek shelter: Get and stay inside, on the lowest level of a building and away from windows. Close all curtains and blinds to prevent broken glass from entering. Do not use electrical equipment and telephones, and instead, opt for battery-powered objects. Do not shower, bathe or use plumbing. If you have a battery-powered radio, listen to the news for updates. The National Weather Service recommends staying indoors for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
- Slow or stop driving: If you’re driving, try to find a safe, non-conductive overhang, like a bridge or overpass. If you can’t, pull off the road, turn the car off and turn your back to the windows to protect yourself from glass. If you have a blanket, put that over you, and if you have children in the car, put yourself between them and the windows.
After the Storm
- Drive and travel safely: Do not drive through flooded roadways and stay away from storm-damaged areas. Avoid downed power lines and report them to your local power authority.
- Know heart attack signs [external link]: Heart attacks can occur during stressful situations. Make sure you know the signs of a heart attack and what to do if you or someone you know thinks they may be having one.
- Pay attention: Things can change quickly. Watch your family to make sure everyone is OK, and keep an eye on pets. Animals can behave strangely during weather events — make sure you have your pets under your direct control.
Extreme heat is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or more humid than average. Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.
Generally, older adults, the very young, people with mental illness and chronic diseases and people living without air conditioning are at the highest risk for heat-related illness. However, heat can also affect young and healthy people if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
To avoid illness from heat, public health officials recommend:
- Drink water to stay hydrated; don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Avoid sugary drinks or alcohol, as they cause the loss of body fluid.
- Stay in an air-conditioned area, such as a shopping mall or library. Even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment can keep the body cool.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
- Limit outdoor activity to when it’s coolest.
- Avoid preparing or eating hot meals; they add to body heat.
- Provide pets with plenty of fresh water.
- Visit those who are at greater risk at least twice daily, and watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Learn the signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do [external link]. For more information about heat-related illness, visit the CDC's extreme heat webpage [external link].