Preparedness & Recovery

Steps First Responders Take to Stay Safe in Extreme Weather

Emergency responders are on the front line to help people. To do that job, some of them carry up to 60 pounds of equipment during extreme temperatures.

by Joyce Orlando, The Star, Shelby, N.C. / June 21, 2018
AP/Josh Edelson

(TNS) - As temperatures creep into the upper 90s and it feels like it is 110 outside, many are retreating to the indoors, but others have to bear the heat for their work.

Emergency responders are on the front line to help people. To do that job, some of them carry up to 60 pounds of equipment during extreme temperatures.

"Most firefighters carry between 50 and 60 pounds of equipment and when you add the sweat on it, it gains weight," Director of Cleveland County Emergency Management Perry Davis said.

At a fire on Phifer Circle Monday, a dozen firefighters swapped in and out fighting the blaze to make sure they didn't put themselves in danger.

"During a fire, they have to deal with the heat outside and inside," Davis said. "It really takes its toll."

Other emergency responders have different struggles in the heat.

"(Law enforcement) officers are dealing with having their bulletproof vests on. It gets very uncomfortable," he said. "(The heat) is extremely hard on a person. It will absolutely drain you."

And it's not just emergency responders who are dealing with working in the heat.

At any given time, Shelby has upwards of 50 people working outside, whether it is for the parks department or on construction projects, Safety and Risk Coordinator Aaron Archibald said.

"We supply them with anything they could need," he said.

The city has a portion of a warehouse stocked with sunscreen, hats, electrolyte drinks and even frozen treats to help keep the people working outside as comfortable as possible. Workers are able to take more breaks during these high temperature days to make sure they do not fall ill.

"We keep our eyes on the possible signs of heat stress," Archibald said.

At construction projects, there are canopy tents with drinks and box fans hooked up to generators to keep air flowing.

Davis encourages everyone who plans on doing outside work this week to make sure they take care of themselves. EMTs have already been called out to several areas due to heat exhaustion, he said.

"It's important for everyone to take care of themselves, not just us. Take the time to cool off and drink plenty of water," Davis said.

Joyce Orlando can be reached at 704-669-3341 or find her on Twitter @Star_J_Orlando.

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