Houston activates heat emergency plan

HOUSTON The city of Houston has activated its heat emergency plan. Houston activates the plan when the heat index, a computation of air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 on two consecutive days.

High-risk groups such as adults age 55 and older, children under the age of five and people with chronic illness are urged to stay inside air-conditioned buildings between 1pm and 5pm, the hottest part of the day.

Anyone without access to air-conditioning can seek shelter during business hours at city multi-service centers, libraries or recreation centers. Houstonians may call 311 and ask for the nearest open city facility.

Metro can provide transportation to the Central Library, 500 McKinney. Arrangements for transportation to the library can be made by calling 311.

Reliant Energy is operating cooling centers around town, and offering assistance for those who may have trouble with their summer electric bills. The city of Houston Health Department has 10 multi-service centers available across the city as Beat the Heat Centers. They're open every day from 8am to 5pm.

Each center has a program for providing children with lunch and an afternoon snack. Residents can call 311 for assistance locating the center closest to them.

  • Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, 6719 W. Montgomery, 77091 - 713-694-9274
  • Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center, 6402 Market Street, 77020 - 713-670-2143
  • Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center, 4014 Market Street, 77020 - 832-393-3800
  • Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center, 3810 West Fuqua, 77045 - 832-393-4200
  • Kashmere Multi-Service Center, 4802 Lockwood, 77026 - 832-393-5503
  • Southwest Multi-Service Center, 6400 High Star, 77074 - 713-778-6500
  • Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, 4605 Wilmington Street, 77051 - 713-732-5030
  • Third Ward Multi-Service Center, 3611 Ennis Street, 77004 - 713-527-4005
  • West End Multi-Service Center, 170 Heights Blvd, 77007 - 713-803-1050
  • Magnolia Multi-Service Center, 7037 Capitol Street, 77011 - 713-928-9515
  • McGuire-Dent Recreation & Fitness Center, 2222 28th Street Galveston, TX 77550
  • Wright Cuney Recreation Center, 718 41st Street Galveston, TX 77550

Reliant Energy provides assistance during the summer for customers whose bills become so high they cannot afford to pay the entire thing at once. Other energy providers also often provide some type of assistance program. During an excessive heat advisory, utility companies are prohibited from disconnecting service due to lack of payment.

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services recommends people take precautions against high heat and humidity to prevent illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Doctors say the elderly and children are most at risk for heat-related illnesses.

To prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Increase water consumption. Drink lots of liquids even before getting thirsty, but avoid those with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
  • Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when it is cooler. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of water or electrolyte-replacement beverages and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility. People unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration.
  • Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a vehicle.
  • A wide-brimmed hat helps prevent sunburn as well as heat-related illness. Sunscreen also protects from the sun's harmful rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
  • If the house is not air-conditioned, seek accommodations in air-conditioned facilities during the heat of the day: multi-service centers, malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc.
  • Take frequent cool baths or showers if your home is not air-conditioned.
  • Electric fans should only be used in conjunction with an air conditioner. A fan can't change the temperature of a room; it can only accelerate air movement, and will accelerate the body's overheating.

Stay alert to heat advisories. The National Weather Service declares a Heat Emergency when the heat index, a computation of the air temperature and humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two or more consecutive days. A heat index of 108 is a potential health threat for all people and is particularly dangerous for high-risk groups.

Protect your pets too

The triple digit heat can not only be dangerous for you, but it can be bad for your pets.

Houston SPCA offered tips Wednesday on protecting your pets from the summer heat.

Never leave your pet in a parked car even with the windows cracked and parked in the shade. Inside temperatures can reach as high as 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.

On very hot days, limit dog walks to early morning or evening hours.

Also, keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can actually burn your pet's paws.

For those who like to hit the pool or the beach to escape the heat, the SPCA warns not all dogs are excellent swimmers and they should always be supervised.

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