Types of emergency

Extreme heat

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.

The SA State Emergency Service (SES) coordinates the state's response to extreme heat events.

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.

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.

Know:

  • 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. Clean and replace air filters according to manufacturer's instructions.

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.

Emergency kit

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.

Be informed

There are a number of ways to find out about extreme heat events and subsequent service disruptions.

For weather

Keep up to date with weather information from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM):

For extreme heat warnings

Check extreme heat warnings and advice from:

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:

For road conditions

Check:

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.

Stay hydrated

  • 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

Illness

Symptoms

Treatment

Dehydration

  • profuse sweating
  • increase in body temperature
  • lethargy and tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • thirst
  • irritability
  • on feeling unwell, cease activity and go to a cool, shaded place
  • drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol)
  • try to keep cool by:
    • turning on a fan or air conditioner
    • using a spray bottle of water on the face and body
  • if remaining unwell, seek medical advice as soon as possible

Heat cramps

  • muscle spasms
  • painful muscle cramps in the limbs or abdomen
  • twitching
  • moist, cool skin
  • on feeling unwell, cease activity and go to a cool, shaded place
  • drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol)
  • try to keep cool by:
    • turning on a fan or air conditioner
    • using a spray bottle of water on the face and body to cool down, or use a wet towel
    • having a cool shower or bath
  • lie in a cool place with legs supported and slightly elevated
  • massage limbs gently to ease the spasms, or firmly if cramped, then apply ice packs
  • if remaining unwell, seek medical advice as soon as possible

Heat syncope

  • dizziness and fainting (symptoms may be aggravated
    by cardiovascular disease and certain medications)
  • on feeling unwell, cease activity and go to a cool shaded place
  • drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol)
  • try to keep cool by:
    • turning on a fan or air conditioner
    • using a spray bottle of water on the face and body to cool down, or use a wet towel
    • having a cool shower or bath
  • lie in a cool place with legs supported and slightly elevated
  • if heat cramps present, massage limbs gently to ease the spasms, or firmly if cramped, then apply ice packs
  • if remaining unwell, seek medical advice as soon as possible

Heat exhaustion

  • headaches
  • high temperature
  • profuse sweating
  • cold, clammy pale skin
  • fatigue, weakness and restlessness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weak but rapid pulse
  • poor coordination
  • circulatory collapse
  • may be aggravated by cardiovascular disease, and certain medications
  • on feeling unwell, cease activity and go to a cool, shaded place
  • drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol).
  • try to keep cool by:
    • turning on a fan or air conditioner
    • using a spray bottle of water on the face and body to cool down, or use a wet towel
    • having a cool shower or bath
  • put cool packs under the armpits, in the groin or on the back of the neck (or all three places) to reduce body heat
  • lie in a cool place with legs supported and slightly elevated
  • if heat cramps present, massage limbs gently to ease the spasms, or firmly if cramped, then apply ice packs
  • if remaining unwell, seek medical advice as soon as possible

If vomiting continues, seek medical assistance immediately - dial Triple Zero (000) and ask for Ambulance.

Heatstroke

  • confusion, headaches, dizziness and nausea
  • flushed, hot and unusually dry skin
  • intense thirst
  • dry, swollen tongue
  • sudden rise in body temperature (40°C+)
  • disorientation, delirium
  • slurred speech
  • aggressive or bizarre behavior
  • sleepiness
  • convulsions
  • unconsciousness may develop rapidly
  • seizures or coma
  • (may be aggravated by cardiovascular disease and certain medications)

This is an extreme medical emergency - dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance.

  • on feeling unwell, cease activity and go to a cool shaded place
  • drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol)
  • try to keep cool by:
    • turning on a fan or air-conditioner
    • using a spray bottle of water on the face and body to cool down, or use a wet towel
    • having a cool shower or bath
  • put cool packs under the armpits, in the groin or on the back of the neck (or all three places) to reduce body heat
  • lie in a cool place with legs supported and slightly elevated
  • if heat cramps present, massage limbs gently to ease the spasms, or firmly if cramped, then apply ice packs
  • if conscious - try to keep the person calm and stay with them until ambulance arrives
  • if unconscious - check airway for breathing and monitor pulse rate until ambulance arrives
  • do not give aspirin or paracetamol to a person affected by heat

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.

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Page last updated 13 February 2017

Provided by:
State Emergency Service
URL:
https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/emergencies-and-safety/types/extreme-heat
Last Updated:
13/02/17
Printed on:
25/05/17
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016