New Yorkers Urged to Stay Cool During Oppressive Weather

New York State
George E. Pataki, Governor
NYS Emergency Management Office
John R. Gibb
Contact: Dennis Michalski: (518) 292-2310
NYS Department of Health
Antonia C. Novello, M.D.,M.P.H.,Dr.P.H.
Contact: Robert Kenny: (518) 474-7354, ext. 1

IMMEDIATE, Tuesday August 1, 2006

With high temperatures and humidity predicted for today and Wednesday, John R. Gibb, Director of the New York State Emergency Management Office, and State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D.,M.P.H.,Dr.P.H., today recommended tips to New Yorkers to help them beat the dangerous heat.

"As the temperature climbs, it is important that people take precautions to help lessen the chances of heat-related problems and to help make the hot weather less distressing," Gibb said. "It is also important to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems."

"We all enjoy the outdoors," Dr. Novello said. "However, with the recent stretch of high temperatures across much of New York, everyone must take precautions to protect themselves and those who are at greatest risk from heat-related illness this summer season."

The elderly, infants, young children, people who have mental illness and those who are physically ill are at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses. Common forms of heat-related illness are heat stroke (or sunstroke), heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and is accompanied by hot, dry skin; shallow breathing; a rapid, weak pulse; and confusion. Heat stroke occurs when a person's body temperature exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit and could render the victim unconscious. If you believe that someone has heat stroke, call for emergency medical treatment or have the person taken to the hospital immediately. While waiting for emergency personnel move the victim to a cool area out of direct sunlight; sponge bathe with cool water; and fan. If possible, relocate the person to an air-conditioned room.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating, weakness and cold, pale, clammy skin. There may also be fainting and vomiting. If someone appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, they should be moved to a cool area out of direct sunlight, sponge bathed with cool water and fanned. Administer sips of water to the individual every 15 minutes for one hour.

Heat cramps are characterized by painful spasms, usually in muscles of the legs and abdomen and by heavy sweating. To relieve heat cramps, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage the muscles. And, as in the case of heat exhaustion, give sips of water every 15 minutes for one hour.

On Monday, Governor George E. Pataki urged New Yorkers to prepare for the expected heat wave the next few days by taking advantage of free admission at Long Island State Park Beaches today and Wednesday to help stay cool. The Governor has also directed all State agencies to implement greater energy conservation measures to lower the demand for power.

"By waiving admission fees to these waterfront parks and beaches, and implementing a variety of energy-saving strategies, we can beat the heat in a safe manner," Governor Pataki said. "And as always, we ask all New Yorkers to look out for their friends, family, and neighbors, especially elderly individuals and others who face higher risks in hot weather."

Under the Governor's directive, fees at the following State Park beaches will be waived beginning today through Wednesday:

  • Heckscher State Park
  • Hither Hills State Park
  • Jones Beach State Park
  • Orient Beach State Park
  • Robert Moses State Park
  • Sunken Meadow State Park
  • Wildwood State Park

In anticipation of extremely hot weather and expected peak electricity demand, the Governor has activated the Extreme Weather Emergency Task Force of the Disaster Preparedness Commission, which is the focus for State actions in support of local governments responding to the impacts of severe weather conditions, including oppressive heat. Led by the State Office of General Services (OGS) and the Department of Health, the task force can aid local governments in setting up cooling centers for people to escape the heat.

The Governor also has directed the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center and has called on State utilities to activate their emergency centers to more expeditiously respond to any problems caused by the unusual weather patterns that New York has been experiencing.

In addition, the State Public Service Commission (PSC) is coordinating an interagency team that monitors the electricity supply system and interacts with the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), which manages the electricity market in the State. On Wednesday, the peak electricity demand is expected to exceed the prior peak load that occurred on July 26, 2005. Accordingly, several emergency electricity demand reduction programs are expected to be activated to help reduce stress on our extensive electric generation and delivery system.

The Governor has also directed the activation of the State agency electricity load reduction program, which cuts back on power demands for certain State agency facilities, beginning tomorrow morning and continuing through Wednesday. Also, the NYISO is expected to activate the Emergency Demand Response and the Special Case Resource programs which reduce demand on the electricity system. All these actions are designed to enhance the reliability of our power grid during unusual events such as the forecasted heat wave.

The SEMO Director and State Health Commissioner also offered the following safety tips:

Slow down. Stay in cool places and get plenty of rest to allow your natural "cooling system" to work. Take a cool shower or bath and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest times of the day.

Stay out of the sun. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself. The sun will also heat the inner core of your body, resulting in dehydration. If you must go out, use a sunscreen lotion with a high sun protection factor (SPF) rating – at least SPF 15.

Stay indoors as much as possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sunshine. Even in the warmest weather, staying indoors, out of sunshine, is safer than long periods of exposure to the sun.

If your home is not air-conditioned, go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours. Air-conditioned locations are the safest places during extreme heat because electric fans do not cool the air. Fans do help sweat evaporate, which gives a cooling effect.

Conserve electricity not needed to keep you cool. During periods of extreme heat, people tend to use a lot more power for air conditioning. Conserve electricity not used to keep you cool so power can remain available and reduce the chance of a community wide outage.

Dress appropriately. When outdoors, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing that will cover as much skin as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain normal body temperature. Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn and over-warming effects of sunlight on your body. When indoors, wear as little clothing as possible.

Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which will keep direct sunlight off your head and face.

Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals that you lose by sweating. Do not drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar - these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Eat small meals, but eat more often. Large, heavy meals are more difficult to digest and cause your body to increase internal heat to aid digestion, worsening overall conditions. Avoid foods that are high in protein, such as meats and nuts, which increase metabolic heat.

Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician. Salt causes the body to retain fluids, resulting in swelling. Salt affects areas of your body that help you sweat, which would keep you cool. Persons on salt-restrictive diets should check with a physician before increasing salt intake.

Monitor those at high risk. Infants and children up to four years of age are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and they rely on others to normalize their environments and provide sufficient liquids. People who are 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense or respond to a change in the temperature. Those who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat. People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or those who take certain medications for conditions such as depression, insomnia or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat. Individuals with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary may find that their conditions worsen during periods of high heat and humidity. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children need more frequent watching.

NEVER leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles. Temperatures inside a closed vehicle can reach over 140 degrees Fahrenheit quickly. Exposure to such high temperatures can kill within a matter of minutes.

For more information on heat safety tips, visit the New York State Emergency Management Office website at and the New York State Department of Health website at New York City residents can call 3-1-1 to find out additional information on the city's efforts on heat preparedness, including the location of cooling centers.