Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

5 Great Public Health Resources for Dealing With Extreme Heat

Health + Wellness
5 Great Public Health Resources for Dealing With Extreme Heat

tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachel Licker

As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.



While I was pregnant, my neighborhood lost power for a few days during an excruciating heat wave as a result of a power surge. The heat index reached 108°F and to keep safe, I spent time in cooled buildings and ran an extension cord from a neighbor with electricity through my mail slot to power a fan.

In May, I had to buy a fan for my baby's stroller when the heat index neared 100°F. And I've had to spend many days indoors as, so far, 21 days this year have been at least 90°F in the District of Columbia.

So where does a parent — or an outdoor worker, a student, a retiree, or any U.S. resident for that matter — turn to figure out how to keep safe in the face of extreme heat?

These are five resources that can help you and your loved ones stay safe during an extreme heat event. There are others available, some of which you can find by way of these resources. You can also help keep others in your community safe, for example by checking in on elderly neighbors or other people you know who are particularly vulnerable to heat.

  1. Is there an active heat alert? An important step in staying safe is to know what conditions are like — and are forecast to be like — outside. All U.S. residents can turn to weather.gov — the National Weather Service's homepage — to find out whether there are any active heat alerts. The National Weather Service maintains a list of phone apps, websites and other sources of weather alerts here. Local weather forecasters will also provide this information and it is important to follow their advice — heat is currently one of the top weather-related causes of death in the U.S., and there is a lot that people can do to prevent heat-related illness.
  2. Learn the signs of heat-related illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains this helpful guide to heat-related illness signs and symptoms, and what to do if you exhibit them.
  3. What to do to stay safe. The Heat Safety Tips and Resources website from the National Weather Service is chock-full of resources on how to stay safe during an extreme heat event. There is information specific to particular segments of the U.S. population, including parents, outdoor workers, Spanish speakers and pet owners. Similarly, the CDC also maintains this helpful website that has information for many other groups, including older adults, low-income households, those with diabetes and athletes. It is important to know about the unique vulnerability of yourself and any dependents you might have.
  4. Find your closest cooling center and other local resources — call 211. Many cities and communities have cooling centers in places such as libraries, town government buildings, senior centers or shopping centers that residents can visit for respite from the heat. The federal government set up 211 as a line that people can call to get connected with expert help. Some states and communities, including New York, have this information online. Calling one's town government, including a police station, can also help track down this information.
  5. What's your plan? It is important to have a plan in place on how you and any dependents will stay safe should a heat wave hit. Ready.gov provides suggestions on how to prepare.

Last but not least, there are measures that need to be taken now by our federal and state governments, as well as our communities, to reduce the threat of extreme heat in the future.

As our most recent report, Killer Heat, shows, this threat is projected to worsen dramatically in the next few decades for nearly all U.S. residents if we do not act on global warming. These measures need to include efforts to both reduce heat-trapping emissions to limit the frequency and severity of extreme heat and build resilience to heat so that when an extreme heat event hits, communities are prepared.

While we can't prevent some increases in extreme heat, we can ensure that future generations will, at the very least, have the tools necessary to cope and the ability to stay safe.

Rachel Licker is a senior climate scientist with the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Eating too much black licorice can be toxic. Nat Aggiato / Pixabay

By Bill Sullivan

Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are many different CBD oil brands in today's market. But, figuring out which brand is the best and which brand has the strongest oil might feel challenging and confusing. Our simple guide to the strongest CBD oils will point you in the right direction.

Read More Show Less
A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins

Regulators in New York state announced Thursday that banks and other financial services companies are expected to plan and prepare for risks posed by the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch