With summer just beginning and record-breaking temperatures already taking a toll across the U.S., MIR3, Inc., innovator of real-time Intelligent Notification (IN(R)) and response technology, urges government officials to review crisis communications processes to ensure residents are informed and protected during the sweltering summer months ahead.
The elderly, the very young and people with chronic disease are at the highest risk to suffer heat-related illnesses. Already the city of Chicago has reported the loss of 23 lives due to excessive heat, prompting mayor Rahm Emanuel to ask the city’s Office of Emergency Management to analyze its response to the recent event and consider improvements in the face of future heat waves. Chicago isn’t the only city whose citizens were suffering as the record high temperatures scorched a path from Iowa to the East Coast; the National Weather Service issued heat warnings for Washington, New York and Philadelphia, where temperatures reached into triple digits. The situation was exacerbated by a derecho, a violent windstorm that knocked out power to much of the Mid-Atlantic area, leaving millions to face severe temperatures without electricity to power fans or air conditioners. Temperatures have begun to drop, bringing welcome relief, but not after claiming 52 lives and gravely affecting crops across the Midwest. With much of the summer ahead, it’s reasonable to anticipate further high temperatures and additional thunder storms.
“Notification and response technology gives city officials an easy way to reach to hundreds of citizens and first responders with important information during dangerous temperature spikes,” said Amir Moussavian, president and CEO at MIR3. “Alerts like these can be life-saving, and we urge government officials to review their communication infrastructure and practices this summer. We work with top organizations each day to deliver important weather-related messages and warnings to thousands of people across multiple devices, increasing the safety of people across the country.”
In order to minimize heat-related health issues during the summer months, MIR3 experts offer the following recommendations to ensure the health and safety of residents:
Daily automated phone calls
During days of extreme heat, public officials and government organizations can send an automated phone call or SMS message to citizens who are at a high-heat risk, such as the elderly, to ensure precautions are taken to keep cool and hydrated. If the recipient doesn’t respond to the alert, another automated call or SMS message can be initiated to an emergency contact so they can check on the individual’s safety. Two-way response options can also be incorporated so notification recipients can verify their safety or the need for further assistance.
Advice on heat preparation
To prepare for a heat wave, citizens can be notified with recommendations and preventative tips using automated alerts. Communicating the need to stay cool indoors, drink plenty of fluids, and balance electrolytes by replacing necessary salt and minerals is vital to safety. If individuals must engage in outdoor activities, advise them to engage in those activities when the sun is the weakest (in the morning and evening) and to wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
Education on heat-related health issues
With temperatures scorching, heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke if not treated early. Citizens should be warned to look for signs of heat exhaustion including extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, heavy sweating, paleness and dizziness. Officials should advise individuals experiencing these symptoms to seek shaded areas and drink plenty of liquids, and if symptoms worsen to call 911 and seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
Severe temperature alerts — When excessive heat is forecast for more than 24 hours, officials are urged to send messages via landline, fax, mobile phone, text message, and email, providing up-to-the-minute alerts about regional forecasts and humidity expectations. Messages can be integrated with links to news stories, tips for staying indoors and hydrated, and directions to designated cooling centers such as libraries and community centers.
Energy conservation reminders
To avoid rolling blackouts or brownouts, or to alert residents in the case of such incidents, automated reminders can be sent to residents on how to conserve electricity by limiting the use of major appliances during peak hours, when to water lawns and regional updates as to when and where blackouts may occur. Automatic call bridging to information centers can be incorporated if residents have further questions.
Encourage notification registration — In anticipation of future heat waves over the rest of the summer and early fall months, city officials should encourage residents to verify or update contact information through an easy-to-use online portal, ensuring important message will reach them by every possible means. Officials can also collaborate with local news stations to help spread the word about the importance of registering for the regional alert system. MIR3 has notification technology specialists available to speak and expand on the above recommendations for this year’s summer season.