Red Cross Assisting with Heat Related Emergencies Across Iowa

by American Red Cross
Posted on 8/27/2013


Des Moines, IA - The American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa is supporting county health departments and emergency managers across Iowa with requests for assistance due to the dangerous excessive heat.

The Polk County Health Department opened an overnight cooling shelter in Des Moines Monday night at the Zion Lutheran Church on Beaver Avenue. Red Cross volunteers have delivered comfort kits which include personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, to the shelter.  

In Fort Dodge, the Red Cross is providing cots and other supplies to assist Webster County Emergency Management shelter approximately 100 students at Iowa Central Community College. One of the school’s residence halls does not have air conditioning.

“The Red Cross is ready to provide support to our partners in Iowa’s 99 counties in any way we can, “ said Leslie Schaffer, Regional Chapter Executive for the Iowa Region. “Excessive heat can be deadly; it has caused more deaths in recent years than all other weather events. We want everyone to stay safe during the hot weather and have some reminders for them to follow when the weather is hot and humid.”

NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN, PETS IN THE CAR, the inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Other heat safety steps include:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because 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 working outdoors.
  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.
  • If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should choose places to go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls).

HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes. 

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

HEAT STROKE IS LIFE-THREATENING. Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

For more information on what to do when temperatures rise, people can visit redcross.org, download the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety Checklist, or download the free Red Cross First Aid. The app is available for iPhone and Android smart phone and tablet users in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. People can learn how to treat heat-related and other emergencies by taking First Aid and CPR/AED training online or in person. Go to redcross.org/takeaclass for information and to register.