Tips to stay cool and safe during Iowa heat wave, plus ways to save energy
Public health experts want to make sure Iowans are taking this heat wave seriously.
Weather forecasters are predicting highs around 90 degrees or above for at least the next week, including 98 on Tuesday and near 100 next Monday. That can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially in young children, older adults and people with chronic health problems, according to the Polk County Health Department.
The department offered these tips for avoiding heat-related issues:
- Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, because they can dehydrate you.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors. Spend at least two hours in air conditioning each day.
- Try to avoid being outdoors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the weather tends to be the hottest.
Cooling centers in Polk County
More than 30 locations in Polk County serve as cooling centers, including the five Des Moines libraries and Merle Hay Mall.
DART providing free rides to cooling centers
The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority is providing free rides to cooling centers due to the extreme heat through Wednesday. Riders should tell bus drivers that they want to go to the cooling center or overnight shelter.
More information, including about nearest routes, is available on the DART website or by calling 515-283-8100.
Tips, recommendations to prevent car deaths in the heat
Safety experts recommend special measures for parents of young children, to help them remember to remove them from the car — especially in summer weather. On average nationwide, about 40 children younger than 15 die each year after being left in hot cars. Vehicles act as virtual ovens in hot weather, because temperatures can soar past 120 degrees even when the outdoor air temperature is in the 80s.
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes or in moderate temperatures.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and move it to the front seat when a child is strapped in, as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
- Place your purse, briefcase or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
- Make "look before you leave" a routine whenever you get out of the car.
- Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.
- Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
- If a child goes missing, check the inside and trunk of all cars in the area immediately.
- Teach children to honk the horn if they get stuck inside a car.
- Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.
How to conserve energy during heat wave
Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, Iowa's largest power company, has offered these tips to save energy during previous hot stretches:
- Wait until sundown: Limit clothes drying, baking and other heat-producing work with appliances to the morning hours or after 7 p.m.
- Dial up: Setting your thermostat a few degrees higher can make a big difference – reducing electrical usage 3 to 5 percent for each degree. A setting of 78 degrees will keep you comfortable when it is more than 90 degrees outside. If you are not at home during the day, close the house and turn off the air conditioner.
- Use fans: Fans use less energy than air conditioners and can boost the comfort from an air conditioner, increasing its efficiency. Use ceiling and portable fans to better circulate cool air throughout your home. Reverse the normal direction of ceiling fans to pull cool air up from the floor. Ventilate your attic with a thermostatically controlled fan.
- Trim foliage outside: Keep your air conditioner unit clear of grass, weeds and shrubs. This will keep your air conditioner unit from working too hard.
- Block sun: Close drapes, particularly those on west and south windows, to shut out direct sunlight.