In a heat event, please check on your neighbors, especially older adults and anyone who might have a health condition that could put them at higher risk for heat-related illness. If you are worried about a friend, family member or neighbor you can't get in touch with, you can call non-emergency dispatch at 503-629-0111 to request a welfare check.
Stay cool indoors
- Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as you can.
- Drink plenty of fluids (water is best), even if you don't feel thirsty.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Close your blinds and curtains to keep sunlight out.
- If the temperature falls at night, open your windows to let the cool air in (if it is safe to do so).
- Use fans but do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device when it is very hot. Instead, mist yourself with a spray bottle, and then use the fan to get the cooling benefits of evaporation.
- Do not use your oven or do laundry on very hot days.
- Eat small, light meals.
If you go outside
- Drink plenty of fluids. Choose Gatorade or another sports drink if you are sweating a lot.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Use sunscreen.
- Exercise in the early morning when it tends to be cooler.
- Avoid strenuous activity in the heat of the day.
- Never leave children or pets in cars. Read more about keeping pets safe in hot weather.
- Get a baby pool or play in a sprinkler. Visit a local sprayground or fountain.
- If you choose to swim or recreate in a local river or lake, be sure to wear a personal flotation device (life jacket) and take other safety precautions. More information on Red Cross page.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
When your body can't cool itself quickly enough, it can cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. If you see someone with signs of overheating, move them to a cooler location, have them rest for a few minutes and give them a cool beverage to drink slowly. Get medical attention for them immediately if they do not feel better or if they are throwing up.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability unless treated immediately. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Nausea, confusion and unconsciousness
For more information, visit CDC's website.
The National Weather Service has developed a HeatRisk forecast. This tool gives a quick view of heat risk potential over the upcoming seven days. The color-coded chart provides health guidance similar to the air quality index.
When do we open cooling centers?
Washington County has a reliable group of partners who operate daytime cooling centers and overnight shelters for people to stay out of the extreme heat. Washington County Emergency Management and Public Health work together with our city partners to decide when to recommend the opening of daytime cooling centers. We use the National Weather Service weather briefings, HeatRisk forecast, and knowledge from past events to determine when to open overnight shelters.
Whenever the National Weather Service forecasts extreme heat, we publish our map of Places to Get Cool. These are public air-conditioned facilities and outdoor spaces where you can go to cool down. The map has information about hours, transportation options, and pet rules.
When the HeatRisk forecast is at high risk (red) or very high risk (magenta), we may work with the facilities to offer extended hours as cooling centers. We may also partner with our Housing Services Department to activate an overnight cooling shelter if temperatures are forecasted to stay high overnight or for an extended period of time.
If existing facilities don’t meet the need, Washington County may call on our volunteers to open and staff an additional space like the Wingspan Building at the Fair Complex or a community center.