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Heat Wave Warning and Safety Tips Issued by the American Red Cross of Tennessee Region

Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings now affect parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, as well as parts of New Mexico and Arizona to the west, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Tennessee is expected to reach the mid to high 90s by the week’s end, with heat indexes over 100 degrees forecasted.

The American Red Cross of Tennessee Region warns that excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods, in recent years. A heatwave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity.

Tennesseans should be aware of weather terms when a heatwave is predicted in their community:

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  • Excessive Heat Watch: Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Heat Advisory: Heat Index values are forecasted to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs = 100-105°Fahrenheit).
  • Excessive Heat Warning: Heat Index values are forecasted to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs = 105-110°Fahrenheit).

Here are the recommended actions to take during a heatwave warning:

  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.
  • Be aware of both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined.
  • Discuss heat safety precautions with members of your household. Have a plan for wherever you spend time—home, work, and school—and prepare for power outages.
  • Check the contents of your emergency disaster kit in case a power outage occurs.
  • Identify individuals in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick, or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, identify places you could go to seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls).
  • Recognize that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heatwave than those living in rural areas.
  • Obtain First Aid training from your local Red Cross chapter to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Ensure that your animals’ water and shade needs are met.
  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid consuming caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and eat more frequently.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors as they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Slow down, stay indoors, and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
  • Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, spend much of their time alone, or are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure they are not suffering from the heat.

Download the free Red Cross Emergency App, which provides expert advice on how to prepare, respond, and recover from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other disasters. The app also features real-time local alerts for severe weather and hazards, including a map with local Red Cross shelters. Search for “Red Cross Emergency” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

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