SPRINGFIELD – On average, more people die from heat-related causes each year than any other weather hazard. Yet many people still don’t take heat dangers seriously. That’s why the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies will be working to increase awareness of heat safety throughout July, traditionally one of the hottest months in Illinois.
“We’ve had a few hot spells so far this year, but the hottest part of the summer is yet to come,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “Extreme heat isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be deadly. We want people to be aware of heat hazards and stay safe this summer.”
According to statistics compiled by the National Weather Service (NWS), more than 3,800 people died from heat-related causes in the U.S. from 1986 - 2013. During that same period, floods caused 2,246 fatalities while tornadoes were responsible for 2,016 deaths.
Monken said one of the most important safety tips when temperatures rise is to never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked cars. Each year, dozens of children and countless pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia. Hyperthermia occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle.
Temperatures inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.
Parents and caregivers are urged to take actions that will help them remember a child is in the backseat, such as placing a purse, briefcase, cell phone or other crucial item next to the child.
It’s also important to lock your vehicle doors when at home even if it is parked in the garage. Curious children can climb into an unlocked vehicle and become a victim of heat stroke.
Additional tips on how to protect yourself and others from heat-related illnesses are available on the state’s Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov). You can also follow Ready Illinois on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois and on Twitter at twitter.com/ReadyIllinois.