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Taking proper steps in dealing with the heat can save lives

By Kelly Terpstra,

The area looks to get a break from the heat this week, with forecast high temperatures in the upper 70s to low to mid-80s through next weekend.

But summer is in full swing, and that likely means plenty of hot days still ahead.

Temperatures crept into the mid-90s, with heat indexes well over 100 last week. Throw in the humidity and that can make even a trip outside to get the mail a chore for some folks.

There was not an uptick in ambulance calls for heat-related symptoms last week, according to Dawn Staudt, station supervisor for AMR ambulance service.

“I’m surprised that we have not had any increase,” Staudt said. “People must be really staying hydrated and trying to keep cool. They’re being smart with the weather.”

She said that when calls do pick up for heat related exposure, it’s usually because the residents live in a warm house or they’re not consciously drinking enough fluids.

“If you don’t have good air in your home and you do have a basement, usually that’s cool enough down there to start cooling off at least,” she said.

Several rain showers last week produced cooler temps at periods throughout the day, but also created other issues for people with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

“That’s the problem is, once we get rain, then we have humidity,” said Dawn Staudt, who is also a paramedic. “Then you run into respiratory problems. It’s so heavy out.”

Her advice for dealing with heat was straightforward: drink plenty of water, stay out of the sun and take breaks.

“Make sure you’re wearing sunblock and wear the right clothing,” she added.

“If you do have to be out, you need to make sure that you are staying hydrated with water. That’s the best thing you can hydrate yourself with,” said Staudt. “Take frequent breaks if you can and get cooled down if you do have to be outside for long periods of time.”

Lezlie Weber, Floyd County emergency management director, said there are agreements in place between her agency and the city to provide cooling centers. A few of those public places that people can utilize to cool off are the Charles City Public Library and the City Hall council chambers.

“If there’s a bigger need for it, I have other facilities and if they need to be housed throughout the night and stuff like that,” said Weber. “If they need something for more than just a couple minutes. If their AC is broken at their house and they need to be cooled down, that’s when I can open a shelter for them and they can stay until it cools off or their AC gets fixed.”

Weber said the shelters are also available in the winter, when sub-zero temps can be deadly if one is exposed to the outside elements for too long.

“It’s any time – cold, hot,” said Weber. “Some of the shelters are always open.”

Weber reminded anyone who thinks they don’t feel right because of the heat or who is experiencing heat-related symptoms to call dispatch and an ambulance will be on its way to help out.

“If they can call dispatch, then dispatch can get a hold of me and let me know. It’s the quickest and easiest way,” said Weber. “If they are needing a cooling center, chances are they’re probably going to need to get checked out to make sure they’re not reaching heat exhaustion.”

Weber said she makes sure to get the word out and let people know what do when the heat becomes too much for somebody to function normally.

“I posted some things on my Facebook page this morning for like heat stroke – just to know the signs of it and to be aware of what the symptoms are. That way when you do see those in anyone, you can help them or help yourself,” said Weber.