Three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for a particular location is considered a heatwave.
Heatwaves 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 heatwaves.
Impact of heatwaves
The major impact of a heatwave is heat-related illness. Heatwaves cause more deaths in Australia than any other natural disaster.
They may also:
- affect normally reliable infrastructure, such as power and transport
- contribute to an increased fire risk.
Prepare for a heatwave
Think about what you would do if a heatwave:
- 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 during power outages.
Before a heatwave
There are some things you can do to prepare for a heatwave.
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 the heatwave. 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 heatwaves to check on their wellbeing.
There are a number of ways to find out about heatwaves 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
- heatwave forecast (activated during summer).
For heatwave warnings
Check warnings and advice from:
For power outages
If the outage is affecting the neighbourhood, check SA Power Networks current power outages before making a report.
Sign up with SA Power Networks to get SMS or email notifications when the power is out on your property.
For transport disruptions
Contact Adelaide Metro for bus, train and tram services:
- phone the InfoLine on 8210 1000
- check Adelaide Metro announcements online
- subscribe to receive Adelaide Metro SMS or email alerts.
For road conditionsCheck:
During a heatwave
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 heatwave.
- Adults should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty.
- If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby this may need to be more often than usual.
- Babies who are more than six months old can be offered small amounts of cooled boiled water, after or between feeds.
- Young children should drink about 1 to 1.5 litres a day.
- 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. Natural materials such as 100 per cent cotton and linen allow your skin to breathe more than synthetic fabrics.
- 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. Note that some local services may be restricted in high fire risk areas during a declared fire danger rating of Catastrophic or Extreme Fire Danger Warning.
- Limit use of your oven or stove. Instead use a microwave or have an outdoor barbecue.
- Unplug gadgets and small appliances when you are not using them, as they generate heat even when turned off.
- 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 or visit the healthdirect website.
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 a heatwave
The effect of a heatwave on health may continue for some time:
- 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 as 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.