Posted: 10 Jun 2011 09:11 AM PDT
*The following news release was issued by Cal EMA on Friday, June 10, 2011.*
MATHER – Even though the official start of summer is almost two weeks away, State officials today urged Californians to prepare now for the prospect of prolonged periods of hot weather later this summer and fall.
“Summer isn't here yet, but it's not too early for Californians to prepare for the possibility of several days of extremely high temperatures, particularly in areas where temperatures don't reach into the 90s and 100s very often," said California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) Acting Secretary Mike Dayton.
The Acting Cal EMA Secretary urged Californians who haven't already done so to review their emergency plans, replenish their emergency supplies, learn first aid and CPR and create a cooler, more comfortable environment in their homes.
"As we saw in 2006, prolonged periods of extremely high temperatures can cause a significant number of deaths and heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke," said California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Interim Director Dr. Howard Backer.
According to information provided by California's county coroners and medical examiners, 136 Californians died due to heat-related illnesses caused by a 13-day heat wave that struck the state in 2006.
"Infants, young children and seniors, as well as persons who have chronic health conditions, are particularly vulnerable when temperatures rise," noted Backer. "Caretakers must be sure to provide adequate fluids to persons who cannot ask for them or get fluids for themselves. Never leave a child or pet in a closed vehicle for any length of time. Plan outdoor work and exercise during the early morning hours or evening hours. During periods of severe heat, communities will set up cooling centers for daytime use."
Workers in all outdoor worksites such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and other industries, are at risk of serious heat illness and even death when temperatures rise across California. According to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), employers are required to take four basic steps to prevent heat illness at all outdoor worksites. These include training all employees on heat illness, providing adequate water, rest and shade and having an emergency response plan in place.
"I am pleased to see a greater level of compliance and a reduction in occupational heat- related illnesses and fatalities in recent years, but we must remain vigilant during times of high summer heat," said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. "Heat related illness and death are preventable with simple steps that employers take to ensure workers have adequate water and shade and training on the symptoms of heat stress. Having a good program in place not only protects workers' health, but ensures greater productivity."
State officials urged Californians to incorporate energy conservation measures as part of their heat emergency plans.
"Californians can save money and reduce the risk of power outages by setting their thermostats to 78 to 80 degrees when they're home and to 85 degrees or the 'off' position when they're away from home," said Dayton. "They also can reduce strain on the power grid by using their primary refrigerators and freezers for perishable foods and beverages and disconnecting secondary refrigerators and freezers."
Other conservation measures Californians can employ include turning off lights, fans and appliances that aren't in use and using dish washers, driers, washing machines and other appliances after the peak hours of 4 to 6 p.m.
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