County of Sonoma California

You are here:

Heat Emergencies

Esta página en Español

There are no heat emergency actions at this time. If cooling centers are to open, information will appear on this webpage.

On this page:

Heat-related emergencies are preventable, yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. The heat wave of July 2006 caused at least 136 deaths in California over a 13 day period. Even in Sonoma County, temperatures reached dangerous levels for several days.

Temperatures that hover 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature for the region and last for several weeks are defined as extreme heat. In areas with moderate temperatures like Sonoma County, even extended periods of heat above 90 degrees can pose a risk.

Periods of extreme heat push the human body beyond its limits and can result in illness or even death.

Before Extreme Heat: Take Protective Measures

  • 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.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. (Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80 percent.)

Source: Grand Traverse County, Michigan

During a Heat Emergency: How to Prevent Heat Related Illness

  • DRINK - Drink plenty of cool fluids, even if you are not physically active and even if you are not thirsty. If you are physically active, drink 2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) every hour.
  • DRESS -Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Add a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).
  • DECREASE -Limit physical activity, stay indoors in an air-conditioned space or, when available, buildings open to the public as special, "Cooling Centers." Electric fans will not prevent heat-related illness, and may actually be harmful, when the temperature climbs into the high 90s.
  • DEFEND - If working outside in the heat, monitor coworkers and ask them to do the same for you. Check on the elderly at least twice a day. Check on infants and young children frequently. Check on those who are overweight, ill or who are on medication.
  • DEMONSTRATE - Use common sense. Avoid hot foods or drinks and heavy meals. Make sure animals and pets have plenty of fresh water and shade. Consider bringing pets inside and consider wetting down outside animals.
  • DON'T - Do NOT leave any person or pet in a parked car for any length of time for any reason.

Source: Extreme Heat, Sonoma County Department of Health Services (pdf).

Heat Index Readings and Health Risks

The heat index is how hot the heat- humidity combination makes it feel. As relative humidity increases, the air seems warmer than it actually is because the body is less able to cool itself via evaporation of perspiration. As the heat index rises, so do health risks.

Heat index graphic

Caution iconCaution (80º - 90ºF): Fatigue possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

Extreme caution iconExtreme Caution (90º - 105ºF): Sunstroke, Heat Cramps and Heat Exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

Danger iconDanger (105º - 129ºF): Sunstroke, Heat Cramps and Heat Exhaustion likely, Heatstroke possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity.

Extreme danger iconExtreme Danger (130ºF +) Heatstroke risk extremely high with continued exposure.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.


For the Community

Extreme Heat Guide (pdf)
Includes symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services.

Preventing Heat Illness (pdf)
Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services.

Heat Stress: Disabled, Older Adults and Caregivers (pdf)
Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Don't Leave Animals in Parked Cars (pdf)
Source: Sonoma County Animal Care and Control.

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heat Stress in the Elderly
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


For Parents

Protect infants and children from heat-related illness and death
"Where’s baby? Look before you lock."

Summer months bring sun and fun, but can also be a dangerous time when temperatures rise. Heat-related deaths and illness are 100% preventable, yet people get sick or die every year during periods of extreme heat. When outside temperatures are in the low 80s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable since a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's body. Heatstroke deaths and injuries such as permanent brain damage, blindness and hearing loss can occur even with loving and conscientious parents.

To protect children when temperatures are high:

  • Never leave infants or children unattended in a vehicle – even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on;
  • Create a routine so the driver is reminded that a child is in the vehicle For example; place something like a purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure no child is accidentally left behind.
  • Always be sure the car is locked and keys are stored out of children’s reach. Teach children that vehicles are not a play area.
  • Take action if you see a child alone in a car. Call 9-1-1 to get help from professionals.

Source: Safe Kids.


For Employers

Handout for Employees "A Heat Safety Fact Sheet" English | Spanish (pdf)
Source: California Dept. of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Poster: Stopping for Water Keeps You Going. English | Spanish (pdf)
Source: California Dept. of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Cal/OSHA Website: Water. Rest. Shade.
Includes heat safety educational and training resources.


For Health Providers

MMWR Articles About Heat-related Illness
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Related Links

Extreme Heat and Your Health
Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California Emergency Management Agency: Heat Emergencies

California Dept. of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health: Heat Illness Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heat Stress





Ask a Nurse

Use this online form to ask a Sonoma County public health nurse your question about heat related illness.

Cooling Centers

If a heat alert is issued, "Cooling Centers" will be opened to the public. Local newspapers and radio will help alert the public about the location of cooling centers and how best to stay safe during the heat wave.

Related Links

Medical and Health Disaster Planning

Community Preparedness
Disaster information and resources for the public.

Healthcare Coalition
Resources for community healthcare providers.

Health Department Disaster Planning
Health Department disaster planning resources.

Contact

For medical questions:
Ask a Disease Control Nurse

For administrative questions:
Public Health Preparedness
625 5th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone: (707) 565-4496
Fax: (707) 565-4411
Email: PHPreparedness@sonoma-county.org

Back to Top | Website Help | Contact Us | Website Privacy Policy | Notice of Privacy Practices | Get Adobe® Reader®