Written by Eimi Nishihira
Summer 2023 was one of the hottest summers we’ve seen in the Washington D.C. area. Throughout this record-breaking heat wave in D.C., some schools in the area are left without A.C. While D.C. has spent upwards of a billion dollars on renovations for schools, there were still dozens of public schools left with hot, uninhabitable classrooms during the 4-day stretch of intense heat. On Wednesday, September 6, there was a predicted heat index of 107 degrees in the District of Columbia.
An article by the DCist said Whittier Elementary School in Ward 4 started out the school year with four classrooms without fully functioning cooling systems. At CentroNía, we’ve had to move students to other classrooms after the unbearable heat caused the classrooms to rise in temperature. Even for schools with working HVAC systems, outdoor playtimes have been halted to protect children’s safety from heat-related illnesses.
Help protect and prepare yourself/others from extreme hot weather next year by:
- Staying indoors when possible: find places in the shade or with air conditioning to seek relief from the heat. Residents may find their closest cooling center using the District’s interactive map.
- Checking in on your neighbors: young children, the elderly, and those with access and functional needs are the most vulnerable in our community.
- Drinking plenty of fluids: increase your fluid intake but don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, caffeine, or large amounts of sugar.
- Keeping pets indoors: walk pets early in the morning, give pets plenty of water and do not leave pets in vehicles, which can reach dangerous temperatures within 10 minutes. For all animal emergencies, including animals left outside in extreme temperatures or in vehicles, please call the Humane Rescue Alliance at (202) 723-5730.
- Wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen: pick lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing, and wide brimmed hats. Using a SPF 15 or higher sunscreen is best.
Also check out these weather tips by the CDC! :
- Wear Appropriate Clothing: choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
- Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned places as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
• Keep in mind electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.
- Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.
- Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
- Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.
- Do Not Leave Children in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially at risk of getting heat stroke or dying. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:
- Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open
- To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When your child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver
- When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car
- 7. Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: They add heat to your body! Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
• Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
• Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removed salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
• If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctors before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets
- Keep Your Pets Hydrated: provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area
- Check for Updates: check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.
- Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them
- Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:
- Infants and young children
- People 65 years of age or older
- People who are overweight
- People who overexert during work or exercise
- People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation.