Beat the Heat: Take precautions to stay safe in hot weather

01 Aug, 23

Dear Friends,

It’s not your imagination – summers are getting longer. Triple-digit heat is arriving earlier each year. Weather is less predictable. There’s no denying climate change has altered the everyday reality of communities not just in Harris County but across the globe.

Working outside, living without air conditioning, sitting in a hot car – circumstances that might have been uncomfortable if not dangerous a decade ago – are now deadly. Just this year, extreme heat has killed three people in the Greater Houston region. In the U.S., extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather hazard, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding.

We all need to do our part to confront the reality of climate change, one of the greatest challenges for our people and planet. In January, Harris County approved its first-ever internal Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions from Harris County operations by 40% by 2030. Now, we’re working with community members to develop a Climate Justice Action Plan to protect and empower the communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

However, systemic change cannot come soon enough for our low-income communities and communities of color, who are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Although a 16-day streak of extreme heat ended last week, triple-digit temperatures are forecast for the first week of August, usually Houston’s hottest month.

When temperatures climb, so does the risk for heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is unable to cool itself properly. Check on neighbors, family, or friends who are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses and those who live alone.

  • Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the arms, legs, or abdomen.
    • What to do: Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place; drink water, clear juice, or a sports beverage; and seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in one hour.
  • Heat exhaustion is indicated by heavy sweating, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, fainting, weakness, cool and moist skin, dizziness, fast and weak pulse, headache, and/or fast and shallow breathing.
    • What to do: Find an air-conditioned environment and rest; take a cool shower or bath; and drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises quickly, sweating does not occur, and the body is unable to cool down on its own. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10-15 minutes. Warning signs include very high temperature (>103º); nausea; red, hot, and dry skin; confusion; fast, strong pulse; unconsciousness; dizziness; and/or throbbing headache.
    • What to do: Move the person into the shade or an air-conditioned room and bring the person’s temperature down using any method available (ice packs, cool water in a tub or shower, cool water from a garden hose) or wrap the person in cool, wet sheets. Do not give the person any fluids to drink. Perform CPR if needed.

Heat-related illnesses may be a life-threatening emergency. Get medical care immediately or call 9-1-1 while you begin cooling the person down.

For people who don't have access to air conditioning spaces, there are cooling centers open across Precinct One. The following cooling centers in Precinct One are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday:

In addition to multi-service centers, Houston libraries (except for the downtown location) will function as cooling centers during normal business hours. Call 3-1-1 to confirm hours.

People without adequate transportation to a designated cooling center can call 3-1-1 to request a free ride from METRO or zTrip. Transportation is only to and from the cooling centers; transportation to other locations is unavailable. 

While we can’t change the weather, we can look out for each other and take precautions to keep the heat from turning deadly.


Rodney Ellis