Beating The Heat

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

The heat is on.

     Temperatures have been well over 90 degrees for a week now, with some days pushing the thermometer close to 100 degrees.

     The National Weather Service measured Wednesday’s high at 99 degrees in Brookhaven, but digital signs at businesses on Brookway Boulevard showed 100 degrees in at least one location.

     The current heat wave has pushed highs well above June’s average high of 92 degrees. The heat wave shows no signs of retreating, as the National Weather service is forecasting a high of 101 for Friday.

     Since there’s no way to prevent the heat, the best way to beat it is by trying to stay cool and hydrated.

     Brookhaven Fire Chief Tony Weeks recommends drinking fluids and taking it easy, if possible.

     “If you’re going to be outside working in the heat, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks,” he said.

     His department has been fortunate the recent fires they’ve responded to have occurred later in the day.

     “The fire department has had some house fires lately, but they’ve pretty much all been at night,” he said. “We make sure to keep plenty of water and other drinks around when we’re working.”

     Joe Jones, a paramedic with King’s Daughters Medical Center’s Emergency Medical Service, said he hasn’t responded to any heat exhaustion calls yet, but he expects it in the future. He said he normally responds to six to 10 calls a year where people have a heat-related problem.

     “We’ve been lucky …,” he said. “But there is a good chance we will see it shortly.”

     Jones recommends getting into a cooler environment if you start to feel overheated.

     “Turn the air on and start drinking plenty of fluids,” he said. “Sports drinks work well to re-hydrate you.”

     He said senior citizens are especially vulnerable.

     “If a senior citizen is stuck in a hot place, they need to get out,” he said. “It’s very easy for them to become overheated because their bodies do not regulate temperature as well as younger people’s do. They should call someone for help if their air conditioning goes out or they feel like the heat is getting to them.”

     Jones said drinking water really helps if you’re going to be doing things outside as dehydration sets in quickly.

     Head air conditioning technician Buzz Ratliff with Southern Air Conditioning in Brookhaven said they have stayed very busy.

     “We’re extremely busy currently,” Ratliff said. “We get to work before seven and get off around seven. Sometimes we work even longer.”

     Ratliff said most air-conditioning units usually don’t shut off between 10 a.m. and dark.

     “The sun shines so strongly on the roof of buildings the units just run continuously,” he said.

     If a problem arises with your unit, Ratliff said the best thing to do is to turn it off.

     “Just watch your unit; if it stops working, turn it off,” he said. “It won’t just magically fix itself. You can do a lot more damage by leaving it on.”

     Ratliff said turning your thermostat to a higher temperature setting during the day when people are not home works well to save electricity and lessens the strain on the unit.

     “What I do is when I leave home I put my thermostat on 78 or so, then when I get back at night I lower it to what I want,” he said. “There is no point to turn it off completely and then turn it back on later, because it will run until midnight or beyond.”

     He added when it gets over 95 degrees, the units cannot dissipate the heat like they should and do not cool as well. But there are things people can do to help.

     “Make sure your filter is clean,” he said. “A clogged filter can cause the air-conditioning unit to freeze up because they are running so long. Make sure your condenser has plenty of airflow around it, and if necessary trim any shrubs or bushes around it.”

     Weeks also recommended a few summer safety tips to prevent fires.

     “If you’re using charcoal, dispose of the coals by wetting them down before you throw them out,” he said. “If you’re using a gas grill make sure it’s in working order. Use enough lighter fluid to get it going, but not too much. Never use gasoline to start a grill or a fire.”