Forty minute time-lapse of a thermometer in a hot car. Images are taken every 3-4 minutes at the beginning and 7-8 minutes at the end.

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Summer Dangers: Staying Safe

Heat Index
NWS Products
Heat and the Body
Staying Safe


Before the Heat:

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you and your house are ready for the summer heat:

  • Install window air conditioners snugly; insulate if necessary.
  • Check air conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Install temporary window reflectors (for use between windows and drapes), such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to reflect heat back outside.
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Keep storm windows up all year.
  • Know those living near you who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • Be aware that people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave than people living in rural areas.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (libraries, theaters, malls, etc.)
  • Ensure that your animals' needs for water and shade are met.
  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to spot different heat related disorders and treat them.

During the Heat:

You can help yourself and others avoid experiencing heat disorders by following these safety rules.

     Thinking About Yourself

  • Avoid the Heat. Stay out of the heat and indoors as much as possible. Spend time in an air conditioned space. Only two hours a day in an air conditioned space can significantly reduce the risk of heat related illness. Shopping malls, libraries, and theaters offer relief if your home is not air conditioned. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor and out of the sunshine. Remember, electric fans do not cool, they just blow hot air around.
  • Dress for the heat. Wear loose-fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature. Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Avoid too much sunshine--sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
  •  Image Courtesy of FEMA
    Drink FOR the Heat. Drink plenty of water and natural juices, even if you don't feel thirsty. Even under moderately strenuous outdoor activity, the rate your body can absorb fluids is less than the rate it loses water due to perspiration. However, if you have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restrictive diets; or have a problem with fluid retention, you should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Do not drink IN the Heat. Avoid alcoholic beverages and beverages with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and cola. Alcohol and caffeine constrict blood vessels near the skin, reducing the amount of heat the body can release. Although beer and other alcoholic beverages appear to satisfy thirst, they actually cause further body dehydration.
  • Eat for the Heat. Eat small meals more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein because they increase metabolic heat. Avoid using salt tablets, unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Living in the Heat. Slow down. Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous activities such as running, biking and yard work when it heats up. The best times for such activities are during the early morning and late evening hours. Take cool baths or showers and use cool, wet towels.

     Thinking About Others

  • Hot Car
    Click to View Animation
    Do not leave children in a closed vehicle, even for a few minutes!
    Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach 140°F-190°F degrees within 30 minutes on a hot, sunny day.
    • Despite this common sense rule, an average of 35 children die each year in the U.S. as a result of being left unattended in a hot vehicle.
    • The animation on the right is of a thermometer placed in a car parked in the sun over a 40 minute period. Note how the temperature begins rising immediately, hits 100 degrees in about five minutes, and is still increasing at the end of the animation.
    • Remember this simple slogan: "Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat!"
  • Protect small children from the sun when outdoors, since their skin is more sensitive.
  • Help your pets keep their cool. It will "feel" as hot for them as it will for you.
     Image Courtesy of FEMA
    • As with children, do not leave your pets in a closed vehicle.
    • Be sure your animals have access to shade and a water bowl full of cold, clean water.
    • Dogs don't tolerate heat well because they don't sweat. Their bodies get hot and stay hot. During the summer heat, avoid outdoor games or jogging with your pet.
    • If you would not walk across hot, sunbaked asphalt barefoot, don't make your pet walk on it either.

     Thinking About Your Environment

  • Protect windows. Hang shades, draperies, awnings, or louvers on windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering the house by as much as 80%.
  • Conserve electricity. During periods of extreme heat, people tend to use much more power for air conditioning which can lead to a power shortage or outage. Vacuum air conditioner filters weekly during periods of high use.
  • Keep lights turned down or turned off.
  • Avoid using the oven. This helps your home stay cooler and your air conditioning run more efficiently. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.