Extreme Heat in Phoenix: Reminder of the Dangers of Heat Exposure

Extreme Heat in Phoenix:  Reminder of the Dangers of Heat Exposure


Temperatures soared to nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix, Arizona in June of 2016.  This heatwave tied all-time heat records and was so intense that vehicles, roads, airplanes as well as humans were impacted.  Let’s take this opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of taking sensible precautions in order to avoid becoming victimized by heat exposure.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Extreme heat places stress on everything from the power grid and water supplies to roads and vehicles.  Not only is there a greater risk of systems being overloaded and the failure of mechanical parts, but demand increases which makes supplies scarce as well.  This is particularly true when it comes to water distribution.  People have been caught opening fire hydrants to stay cool, using sprinklers and hoses as well as topping off their swimming pools with more frequency.  The problem with excess water usage is that it can reduce pressure and availability throughout the entire distribution network.  Imagine turning on your tap and having nothing more than a trickle come out.  This has happened.

The same can be said for electricity.  A lot of power is generated by burning coal.  Other power gets imported through transmission lines that are hooked into large hydro-electric dams in the region.  However, excessive heat has caused systems to be stretched to their max, and officials have encouraged people to reduce consumption in order to avert an energy crisis during one of the hottest periods on record. 

Then we have problems with roads.  Extreme temperatures have caused concrete to buckle and roadways to crack.  They swell in the heat of the day and rest during the middle of the night.  These have created numerous traffic hazards throughout the entire metropolitan area, including sections of freeways as well as city, suburban and rural roads.  The end result is these defects are causing unpredictable transportation problems along with hazards that are causing accidents.

Another problem has to do with vehicle breakdowns.  Obviously, extreme heat can cause serious engine problems.  This in and of itself has stranded countless motorists who are suddenly faced with a survival situation as many didn’t have an appropriate survival kit or ample supplies of water on hand.  Towing services have been stretched to the max as well, and some people have had to wait for hours to get rescued.  Furthermore, extreme heat deforms the material inside of tires, causing many to burst or deflate, and brakes can fail or catch fire as well.  This not only happens to vehicles, but airplanes have also been forced to divert to other, cooler airports out of an abundance of caution.

Human Casualties

Many hikers, golfers and residents who were not taking proper precautions have fallen victim to the extreme heat.  Sadly, most of these problems could have been avoided if they had enough water, dressed appropriately and limited exposure to the sun and physical exertion during the heat of the day.  We must always remember that we need at least twice the amount of water do sustain ourselves in hot and dry conditions, even when we are at rest.  We also need to stay in cool and shady places with proper ventilation in order to minimize the chances of succumbing to heat exposure.

Hospitals and emergency services have been overwhelmed with patients, and this added strain has stretched already strained resources to the limit.  Response times are longer, non-essential calls are being ignored and some hospitals have been forced to divert patients to other locations. 

All of this is happening in a region where extreme heat is common in the first place.  Now imagine how heatwaves can impact population centers that are not built to adapt.  Make sure that you are prepared to deal with an extreme heat emergency.  You don’t want to be forced to rely on services or assistance that may or may not be there when you need them.  You can be without power and water with little warning.  You may not be able to travel safely for long periods of time.  The key to riding out a heat crisis is to have supplies along with a contingency in place before it strikes.  Don’t let what’s happening in Phoenix impact your life.  Prepare now so that you will be ready when temperatures soar and options dry up.

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