SALT LAKE CITY — While temperatures soared Monday to a high of 103 degrees, northern Utah health workers and first responders braced themselves for potential impacts.
"We don't often have 100 degrees or hotter for several daytime hours, and that's usually our trigger to start talking about extreme heat warnings, if we're going to be in the triple digits for more than an hour two at a time," said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department.
"It's definitely time to make sure you're hydrated, staying in air-conditioned spaces when possible, and check on your friends, families and neighbors who are older, who have underlying health conditions, especially if you know they don't have central air conditioning or another means of cooling themselves," he urged.
On Sunday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a heat advisory for the Wasatch Front lasting until midnight Tuesday.
The National Weather Service announced on social media that by 5:30 p.m. Monday, Salt Lake City had hit 103 degrees multiple times "but just couldn't quite get to the record of 104 degrees Fahrenheit." The service noted that there's another chance for record-setting heat on Tuesday.
For firefighters, the hot weather can bring more fires and more discomfort as they fight them.
"Today's a good example of the type of activities that we can have. We had two grass fires. One had an associated extrication of an individual," said Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Tony Stowe. "The clothing that we wear, I affectionately call it, kind of, showing up in a mummy bag. It really adds to the heat stress of an individual," Stowe said, referring to firefighters' "turnout" gear.
The turnouts that keep heat out also hold heat in, like an ice chest does with the cold. While fighting fires in brush, thankfully, the crews wear suits with lighter material, Stowe said.
The department also has a "rehab" unit stationed by the University of Utah that responds to fires and provides hydration, nutrition, shade, and misters with fans so firefighters can be pulled from the work to be rehydrated and cooled before returning to the blaze, Stowe explained.
In structure fires, the crews' bottles on their backs limit the time they can spend in houses, meaning they must come out of the building after a certain amount of time, rehydrate, then return when they're ready. Firefighters also practice working in hot temperatures to be prepared for emergencies during heat waves like this one.
During holidays like the 24th of July and Fourth of July, Stowe said first responders are often called to help more people with heat exhaustion than they usually do. Children playing outside all day, people experiencing homelessness and members of the elderly community also tend to be susceptible to heat exhaustion and cause an "influx of calls."
For those like construction workers who need to stay outside even in the heat, Stowe said they should "hydrate, hydrate, hydrate" throughout the day. If they're already thirsty, it means it's too late and they need to "rehabilitate" like firefighters do, finding a cool place before they return to work.
"It takes a lot longer to rehydrate the body than it does dehydrate the body," Stowe explained.
Salt Lake County also has "cool zones" set up at every senior center, library and recreation center, where people can go to simply cool off in the air conditioning, or participate in activities while they escape the heat. Recreation centers still require standard entry fees or those planning to take part in activities, but to come cool off.
The zones are available to anyone in the county, including visitors. To find a "cool zone" close to you, visit the Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services' website.
"Anyone who is seeking a break from these hot summer temperatures can drop by one of our cool zones, and they can cool off, they can hydrate, and they can stay safe from heat-related illnesses by sort of seeking refuge there," said Afton January, spokeswoman for the agency.
Aging and adult services workers are also asking for cooling fan donations to distribute to the homebound elderly without adequate air conditioning in their houses. Meals on Wheels drivers typically notice when their clients are living in sweltering conditions and refer them to receive the donated fans.
But now, the agency has a shortage of fans to pass out, January said.
Fans can be taken to any county senior center or the County Government Center, South Building, 2001 S. State Street.
Members of the Red Cross on Monday were also prepared to help during any heat-related emergencies.
"We're definitely on heightened alert, so if the call does come out that we are needed, for instance, if an entire apartment complex, if the power goes out, that we would be able to set something up to help them out," said Kirsten Stuart, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Utah.
Joseph Bledsoe, an Intermountain Healthcare doctor, said anytime temperatures in the area reach 100 degrees or above, "we start to see more patients coming into the emergency department with signs of heat illness, heat rash, dehydration."
There are two types of heat exhaustion, he said. One is exertional, meaning it's caused by activities like working out in the heat. The other is non-exertional, which mostly affects elderly people, children and pets, according to Bledsoe.
If working out in the sun, he said people should take frequent breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water. Elderly people and young children should stay out of the sun, Bledsoe said. He also recommended drinking some water with electrolytes to stay hydrated.
Rupp recommended avoiding alcohol and caffeine because they're both diuretics, meaning they increase the excretion of water from our bodies.
"If you're going to be outside, especially, wear appropriate clothing. So light colored, light-weight fabrics are best. And if possible, stay indoors when outside temperatures are the hottest," Rupp said.
The signs of heat stroke can include a high body temperature, fast pulse, nausea, confusion and fainting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat exhaustion often includes heavy sweating, cold and clammy skin, nausea, dizziness and headache.
Those with heat stroke are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention. Heat exhaustion can be usually be self-treated by rehydrating with cool fluids and getting to a cool place, the Mayo Clinic says.
Utahns should also keep pets in mind during heat waves, the Red Cross spokeswoman said.
"We're always hearing about stories, you know, the dogs left in the car. And people think if they put them in the shade, or if they leave the window down, or even if they keep the air conditioning on that the dog will be OK, when in fact, it's not. Because it basically takes just minutes for a pet to develop heat stroke or suffocate in a car," Stuart said.
On a 78-degree day, she said, temperatures in cars can reach 90 degrees in the shade and 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun.
"Depending on how hot that sun is, it doesn't take long at all. I'm a dog lover myself but in the summer, they stay home, because I know it's safer for them."
She said people should also keep in mind as festivals and summer activities like farmers markets are underway that, if they plan on bringing their dogs, the ground may be too hot for their animals' feet.
"If you're not going to walk on that barefoot, then you probably shouldn't let your pet walk barefoot on it as well," Stuart said.
Contributing: Tania Mashburn