'Stay hydrated, stay cool and stay safe': Austin, Travis County officials warn of heat risks
Austin has been under an excessive heat warning since late last week, putting residents — especially those most vulnerable — at risk for heat-related illnesses.
Temperatures have been at or near 100 degrees, and with no end in sight, Austin and other cities in the area have offered places like rec centers and libraries as cooling centers to give people some relief.
While temperatures are not expected to be quite as hot the next couple days — although still above normal — more extreme heat is in the forecast for next week. Austin and Travis County officials said the city is helping residents prepare by spreading awareness about signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and offering tips about how to stay safe while outdoors.
Robert Luckritz, chief of Austin-Travis County EMS, said paramedics have been out making sure people in the community get the help they need.
“Our community health paramedic team has been working very diligently,” he said “They are actively participating in reaching out to the most vulnerable in the community — both unhoused individuals and others they encounter every day, ensuring they have adequate water, ensuring they are aware of all the cooling centers that are available and the bus routes they can take to get there.”
Paramedics have seen a dramatic increase in calls for heat-related emergencies. Since April 1, he said, ATCEMS has recorded 166 heat-related incidents — 92 of those in June alone. Eighty-eight have occurred in the last two weeks.
Triple-digit temperatures are expected throughout the summer, and officials offer residents these tips to stay safe:
- Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water.
- Look before you lock: make sure kids and pets are not in the car before locking it.
- Check in on people: elderly friends, family members and neighbors.
- Protect yourself: wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, apply and reapply sunscreen, and take breaks in the shade.
Ken Snipes, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the city, said when the heat index reaches well above 100 degrees it poses a risk to everyone.
“We encourage Austinites to stay hydrated, stay cool, and stay safe in these conditions,” he said. “And to be aware of what to do if you come across someone who may be showing signs of a heat illness.”
Heat stroke symptoms can include confusion; loss of consciousness; and hot, red, dry or damp skin. Heat exhaustion, which can progress to a stroke, present as cool, pale, clammy skin, weakness, dizziness, heavy sweating, and nausea or vomiting.
“We all need to understand, and it’s important to understand, the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness,” Luckritz said.
Austin Energy interim General Manager Stuart Reilly said crews are on standby to respond immediately to outages, but said they are not expected at this time. Residents are still being encouraged to conserve energy to lighten the load on the grid.
Homeowners and renters can help by turning up thermostats a few degrees, keeping curtains drawn and blinds closed to reduce the amount of sunlight, unplugging appliances not in use and turning off lights when not in the room.
“I want people to take this seriously,” County Judge Andy Brown said. “There are simple precautions you can take at home. And if you have to go outside, drink plenty of water, take breaks and listen to your body.”