Three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures, that is unusual for a particular location is known as an extreme heat event or heatwave.
Extreme heat events are a risk for anyone who doesn't take precautions to keep cool, even those who are fit and healthy. However, those most at risk are elderly people, babies and young children, and people with a medical condition or mental illness.
Impacts of extreme heat
The major impact of extreme heat is heat-related illness. Extreme heat causes more deaths in Australia than any other natural disaster.
Extreme heat may also:
- affect normally reliable infrastructure, such as power and transport
- contribute to an increased fire risk.
State Emergency Service
The State Emergency Service (SES) is a volunteer-based organisation with responsibility for coordinating the state's response to extreme heat events.
During an extreme heat event the SES will activate the Extreme Heat Plan which includes the issue of warnings and advice to the public.
Prepare for extreme heat
Think about what you would do if extreme heat:
- affected your health or the health of someone you know
- caused loss of electricity
- disrupted public transport.
If you live in a bushfire prone area consider your bushfire preparation.
- how to stay healthy in the heat
- the symptoms and treatment for heat-related illness
- how to find out about heat-related events and alerts from the SES
- what to do when the power goes off.
Before extreme heat
There are some things you can do to prepare for a heatwave event.
Get your home ready
Service your air-conditioner so that it's working before you need it.
Have curtains with pale linings in rooms that get a lot of sunlight, to help reflect the heat.
Consider putting shading such as external blinds or shutters on windows in rooms that face west.
Create a cool area to go to during extreme heat. Ideally the area:
- can be cooled using indoor and outdoor shading
- has a fan or air-conditioning.
Check that your home can be properly ventilated without compromising security. Have insulation in the ceiling and walls to help keep the house cool.
In case of a power outage, have an alternative source of power for radios and torches, and to keep mobile phones fully charged.
Looking after others
Identify family, friends and neighbours who may be particularly at risk during the heat. Make a plan to check on them regularly if a heatwave occurs.
The Telecross REDi service supports registered people by regularly calling them during extreme heat events to check on their wellbeing.
To register yourself or someone you look after, phone the Red Cross on 1800 188 071 or 8100 4510, or email SACLientServices@redcross.org.au.
There are a number of ways to find out about extreme heat events and subsequent service disruptions.
Keep up to date with weather information from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM):
- local weather forecast (seven-day forecast) - www.bom.gov.au
- pilot heatwave forecast (four-day forecast maps).
For extreme heat warnings
Check extreme heat warnings and advice from:
- the SES website
- BOM's South Australia weather and warnings
- the SA Health website
- Alert SA
- radio and television.
For power outages
If the outage is affecting the neighbourhood, check SA Power Networks current power interruptions before making a report.
If the outage hasn't been reported, report it to SA Power Networks online or phone 13 13 66.
Register with SA Power Networks' free messaging service, Power@MyPlace™ to get SMS or email power outage alerts.
For transport disruptions
Contact Adelaide Metro for bus, train and tram services:
- phone the InfoLine on 08 8210 1000
- check announcements or subscribe to email or SMS alerts.
For road conditionsCheck:
During extreme heat
During a heatwave, there are number of things you can do to look after yourself and others.
Get ready early
To keep the house cool on hot days:
- set your air-conditioner to cool
- draw curtains and pull down blinds and awnings.
Plan ahead and do activities like food shopping and visiting the doctor so that you can minimise time outdoors during the extreme heat event.
- drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty
- avoid fizzy, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks
- don't take salt tablets, unless instructed by your doctor.
Minimise sun exposure
- dress for summer by wearing light coloured, loose fitting clothing
- stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day
- if you do have to go out outside, wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and apply sunscreen.
Slip, slop, slap, seek - Cancer Council Australia.
Keep cool inside the house
- use air-conditioning, coolers and fans in the home
- if you don't have air-conditioning spend the day somewhere that does - eg a shopping centre, cinema or library
- open up your home at night if it cools down
- take cool baths and showers
- use cool packs and wet towels on your body.
Look after others
- provide additional care and attention to those you look after, including family, friends and neighbours
- check on them at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat stress
- ensure that they have access to working air-conditioners and fans, and their home is equipped to cope with hot weather
- check they are registered with Telecross REDi.
Look after your pets
- make sure your pets have shade and enough cool water to last a day.
Children or pets in parked vehicles
- never leave children or pets unattended in parked vehicles, even for a short time or with the air-conditioner on.
Watch out for and treat heat-related symptoms
If you need medical attention:
- contact your local doctor
- phone Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 at any time.
In an emergency or life-threatening situation dial Triple Zero (000) and ask for Ambulance.
Heat related illnesses
If vomiting continues, seek medical assistance immediately - dial Triple Zero (000) and ask for Ambulance.
This is an extreme medical emergency - dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance.
After an extreme heat event
The effect of extreme heat on health may continue for some time. You should:
- continue to check on those at risk
- keep drinking water regularly, even if you don't feel thirsty - urine should be clear rather than yellow
- be careful around trees - they often drop limbs when it's hot. Avoid parking or setting up campsites under trees with large overhead branches and don't allow children to climb or play under them.
- open doors and windows to let the house cool down.
About heatwaves - BOM
Stay healthy in the heat - SA Health
Beat the heat fact sheets on ‘Coping with hot weather' and ‘Advice for seniors' - Australian Red Cross