Dripping sweat falls from your face onto the pages of the book you’re reading. You stand up from your coach to get another towel to dry it with, after having gone through two of them already.
You’re wearing a home summer outfit: a white tank top paired with blue shorts. Even then, your clothes are soaked and slightly sticky. Your mouth, dry. Excessive thirst doesn’t even describe it. And it’s not for a lack of drinking fluids.
It’s getting harder to breathe by the minute. Time feels like it’s slowing down. Confusion. Stress. Disorientation. An unshakeable sense of uncomfortability. Simultaneously and separately, you feel all of these.
And then, it strikes you: “This HAS to be a heat wave. And, to make matters worse…there’s a power outage!”
Heat waves are a growing global phenomenon. The main reason? Global warming. From 1998 to 2017, there were more than 166,000 victims who lost their lives to heatwaves, according to data from the World Health Organization. The number is expected to increase heavily from 2030 onwards and is already getting worse. In the summer of 2021 alone, over 100 people died from hyperthermia in Northwest USA and Western Canada.
A heat wave is declared when the temperature for a given location goes above the historical averages for two or more days in a row. Therefore, heat waves are not to be taken lightly.
“I don’t think I can continue reading. The heat won’t let me focus anymore… What should I do to cool down? Guess I’ll grab some water and then reread that…“
While staying at home under the cool air conditioning is ideal, some people do not have air conditioners.
Worse still, heat waves are often associated with power outages when electricity consumption increases. For those without a portable power station, this can leave them in a very dangerous situation.
The impact of a power outage during a heatwave is sudden and unexpected.
One second, you’re enjoying your day, relaxing even, as the AC blasts cool air around your house. You know that, just outside, you’d likely succumb to heat in a few hours without water.
Then, the drone of your appliances goes out and you realize you will soon have to face those deadly outside conditions. You don’t know how long the outage will last. It’s already getting dark, and the idea of sleeping in these sauna-like conditions makes your skin crawl.
While you may be tempted to think, “No big deal,” this can be a life-threatening situation if you fall within a vulnerable group.
- Elderly people over the age of 75
- Babies and young children
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People with chronic illnesses (heart problems, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure…)
- Overweight/obese people
- People with disabilities.
I’ve often thought about what I would do in such a situation. More so, what would I tell my parents if they called me during a heat wave and asked for help?
Based on online research about the best practices before and during a heat wave, this is what I would tell them:
- Stay hydrated
The body needs water to keep down its temperature and maintain its regular heart rate. Dehydration caused by heavy sweating (like you experienced moments ago) can halt the heart and nervous system, that being just one way a heat wave could be fatal.
It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, even when you don’t feel thirsty. This is paramount for babies and young children, who usually aren’t able to tell if they’re thirsty. In fact, whatever you’re used to drinking, double down on that.
At this point, I would decide on a second bottle of water.
Water and electrolyte drinks are your best choices. Iced coffee and alcoholic beverages, while they may make you feel refreshed, will actually dehydrate you. Avoid them. Fruit juice, fruit-based drinks and soft drinks are not recommended, either.
Furthermore, an increased protein intake can increase your metabolic rate, therefore increasing water loss.
For diabetics like myself, not drinking enough liquids can spike your blood sugar levels, which makes you urinate more, dehydrating you further. Drinking water continuously is a must. Take this and your diet into account.
Additionally, pregnant women should drink plenty of water if they’re breastfeeding. Lastly, but not least, if you have pets, make sure they have plenty of water to drink as well.
“Make sure you’re constantly hydrated,” I would tell my parents.
- Avoid outdoor activities
By limiting outdoor exposure, you’re greatly reducing your risk during heat waves.
Hence why you should choose to stay at home.
Luckily, I bought my parents several Boyone portable power stations. This lets them plug in their AC in the even of an outage while still being able to enjoy their appliances like their television. I can also rest easy knowing their phones won’t die.
Since Boyone portable power stations provide continuous electricity when connected to a solar panel, I have no worries that they can both stay safe while they continue living their normal lives, despite the emergency.
Limiting activity is also strongly advised. This keeps the body’s temperature down. If you must go outside, avoid doing so during the hottest parts of the day, between 11am and 5pm, and plan your activities for the early morning, late afternoon or evening.
By limiting going outside, you’ll avoid most heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion, heat stroke (nausea, headaches, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness), heat cramps, sunburn (itchy skin and painful blisters) and heat rash.
People who ignore this, risk becoming overheated and suffering from painful involuntary muscle spasms. Prolonged overheating can even create widespread inflammation that, in the worst case, extends to the blood vessels and affects the heart’s blood flow
Yes: Overheating is more serious than most people think.
And another important point is that babies and young children tend to sweat less. Since they generate more heat during exercise than adults, their natural ability to cool down is reduced. This can cause them to overheat and dehydrate quicker than other risk groups.
- Keep your portable power station charged
Despite owning a portable power station in case of emergencies, I sometimes forget to recharge it after using it during a camping trip.
Luckily, Boyone Ready Kits, which come with a power station and solar panel, have a best-in-class conversion efficiency of over 20%, meaning they are highly efficient with solar energy.
While I would recommend you always keep your power station charged, the ability to quickly connect a solar power and start powering your devices again is a convenient failsafe if you’re anything like me—i.e. busy.
In the event of a heat wave with power outage, I would immediately set up my solar panel to ensure I’m collecting all the power I can. I would check in with my parents and make sure they are doing the same.
- Look for cool places
In our hypothetical scenario, you do not have a working air conditioner.
This is not the end of the world, although it may feel like it is at first.
Portable fans or even a handheld fan with water mist are good enough backup plans for when your house feels too hot.
Yet, most people do not have these devices. I know that neither me or my parents do. And, let’s be honest—eventually, these tiny devices will get lost somewhere around the house.
Instead, I keep my solar power generator on hand. One of these would readily turn your house cool again when paired with a standing fan or AC.
For those who have yet to buy a power station, there are some public places you can go to as a last resort.
Coffee shops, the library, or a shopping mall, for example.
Yet, the journey to these locations can often be dangerous in the event of a heatwave. Therefore, they should only be a last case scenario if you have no way to remain cool while staying at home.
Just keep in mind, wherever you go, it should have easy access to water, so you can keep yourself hydrated.
- Don’t lower your guard during the night
Lastly, bear in mind that health risks don’t disappear just because the night hits. Be conscious and take precautions throughout the day and the sultry summer nights as well.
Namely, you should make sure you have enough power stations at the ready for the night. This means having charged them with the solar panel during the day in preparation.
When outside temperatures haven’t cooled down enough, we won’t realize if our core temperature rises when we’re asleep, like we do while we’re awake.
This can lead to some of the aforementioned heat illnesses. People with heart problems can also develop hyperthermia during a heat wave. Hyperthermia is an episode of abnormally high body temperature, caused by an overwhelming of the body's heat-regulation system due to external factors.
Awareness of this and other possibilities is crucial during planning.
Global warming will undoubtedly bring more heat waves our way. The hottest June on record in US history was this year.
At Boyone, we hope this information is helpful to you in order to prepare for further episodes like these down the line. Share this article and our tips with your friends, family, and dear ones, so they know how to prepare for and get through the hotter summer days.