Staying cool: officials weigh in

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Officials throughout the Heart of Virginia offered tips to stay cool and safe while temperatures have climbed to the upper 90s and have hovered in the early 100s.

“With the extreme heat conditions, we strongly encourage everyone to keep a check on their neighbor, to ensure that especially anyone elderly during extreme heat, that they continue to check on them and ensure that they’re safe,” Dean Farmer, chief of Farmville Fire Department, said.

Pets can also be adversely affected by heat, Farmer said. He encouraged families to keep pets in a shaded area, give them plenty of water to drink, and if possible bring them inside.

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Summer pastimes such as lighting fireworks can pose risks for fires when conditions are dry. For fireworks, Farmer recommended that people make sure the fireworks they’re using are legal in Virginia and he also recommended that they are used in a safe location, operated by a responsible adult, and extinguished before they are disposed.

Assistant Meherrin Volunteer Fire & Rescue Chief Leon Scott said the department hasn’t seen a lot of fire-related emergencies from the heat. However, he encouraged caution when using tools such as grills or setting bonfires.

“When it’s hot and dry like this, you don’t want to burn anything unless you’ve got it under control,” Scott said.

For controlled burns, Dan Pempel, chief of the Randolph District Volunteer Fire Department, said to make sure fires are 100 feet or more from a house or any other building, or clear an area ahead of time. For larger-scale burns, such as burning a garage, Pempel encouraged people to contact their local fire departments to notify them a controlled burn is taking place.

Justine A. Young, executive director of Piedmont Senior Resources (PSR) Area Agency on Aging, said the organization gives fans or air conditioning units to qualified elderly residents who have illnesses such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma that makes them more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

Young said a lot of elderly people are less likely to feel thirsty, and their thirst mechanisms stops working as they age. She encouraged people to stay hydrated. She said for elderly people, or someone with them, who recognizes they may be overheating, Young encouraged elderly people to go into a cool place and drink fluids. For elderly people who may be going into heat stroke, a condition characterized by dizziness, lack of sweating despite heat and potentially becoming unconscious, Young said they need to seek immediate medical attention.

“They need to go straight to the doctor, straight to the ER,” Young said. “Because it can be life threatening.” To learn more, visit or call (434) 767-5588.

Buckingham County Rescue Squad Captain Kerry Flippen said people with diabetes, heart conditions and breathing-related issues need to especially take caution when outdoors, or have air circulating, particularly with an air conditioner, when indoors. Flippen mentioned children who would be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses or dehydration. He said for people working outside, taking frequent breaks and staying away from direct sunlight are a must.

“If you feel like you’re getting weak or getting sick to your stomach, stop, get in a cool area, whether it be an air-conditioned vehicle, or whether it be in a home … getting in the shade, but stop your activities and just keep drinking plenty of fluids,” Flippen said. He also mentioned heat stroke and heat cramps, muscle cramping that arises from lack of fluids and electrolytes.

“They are emergencies,” Flippen said about heat stroke. “It’s nothing to play with. You can go from heat cramps to heat stroke in just a few minutes.” Flippen also encouraged people to have plenty of fluids at the ready to drink, particularly for those who use wells to draw water.