Beat the Heat This Summer: TVF&R Offers Safety Tips

By Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescuetualatin-valley-fire-and-rescue-firefighters

As warmer temperatures continue this summer, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter paramedics remind individuals of all ages to limit their exposure to the sun and heat and take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Unlike warmer parts of the country, many Oregon homes lack air conditioning and people aren’t accustomed to dealing with extreme heat. Individuals suffer heat-related illnesses when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves.

Those most at risk include infants, young children, seniors, and individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes. “Complications can result from sunburns,” says Division Chief Mark Charleston. “People with sunburns tend to dehydrate.  Avoiding dehydration is an important part of maintaining blood sugar levels.”

TVF&R encourages people to limit sun exposure, avoid getting sunburns, and wear shoes when walking on hot pavement to eliminate the chance of getting burns on their feet.

Drinking plenty of water and cool fluids and avoiding alcohol will also help to prevent dehydration. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Drink sports beverages to help replace salt and minerals lost due to sweating.

Heat also adds stress to the body while people carry out their daily activities and exercise. Working out earlier in the day and shortening that workout to compensate for the heat will limit that stress.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, and fainting. Signs of a heat stroke may include high body temperature; red, hot, dry skin (no sweating); rapid pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; or unconsciousness. If you see these signs, seek medical attention and attempt to cool the person with a cool bath or shower, or find a shady or air-conditioned location.

Heat-related illness is cumulative. Take short breaks in an air-conditioned building such as a library, community center, shopping mall, movie theater, etc.

Hot temperatures also pose a health hazard to firefighters who must wear heavy, fire-resistant, protective clothing and equipment weighing in excess of 50 lbs. when battling a structure fire.  This, combined with interior fire temperatures averaging near 1,000 degrees, can result in firefighters becoming dehydrated more quickly.

Lack of hydration is the primary cause of heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening illness. During times when temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees this summer, additional alarms may be activated to bring more crews to the scene of a structure fire in an effort to provide firefighters with a break to re-hydrate and cool down.

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