Essex County Virginia

Excessive Heat Events

Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan

When daytime temperatures are expected to reach and/or exceed 97°F, the heat index can top 105°F or higher for many parts of the Commonwealth. Last year in Virginia, the Chief Medical Examiner reported 10 deaths due to the heat alone. There were 5 deaths in both 2014 and 2013, and 12 in 2012.


The following action plan is intended to reduce the risk of injury or death among the public at large in those areas where an excessive heat event is expected.  It is NOT intended to address comfort.  Evidence suggests that even a few hours in an air-conditioned environment reduces the danger of heat-related illness. During Heat Advisories, fans may not be useful and may increase risk if not used properly.


Action steps:

  1. Review the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website at for comprehensive information on Heat Outlook, Watch and Warning definitions, a Heat Index Chart, hazards, prevention, symptoms and treatment. Similar information may be found on FEMA’s website at
  2. Increase awareness of available public assistance through the Cooling Assistance Program. 
  3. Increase awareness of who is at risk for death or injury due to heat. The individuals most at risk are small children, the elderly and impaired or immobilized persons NOT in an air-conditioned environment.
  4. Work closely with your VDH Regional Public Information Officers (PIOs), your district PIO and your jurisdictional PIOs as well as the media to disseminate timely and important information on reducing heat exposure, symptoms, treatment, etc. Recommend that those involved in outdoor activities or planning events reschedule these activities/events. If it is not feasible to reschedule, advise them to perform their activity or hold their event around the heat.(That is, if they must be outside, go out before noon or at night when it is cooler.)    

  5. Remind again and again to “check your neighbor.” The people most at risk are isolated individuals who are small children, elderly, impaired or immobile, especially if they are not in an air-conditioned environment. If you know someone in this situation, check on them to see how they are doing. If there are problems, they may seek assistance through Social Services.

  6. Assist with Cooling Center identification and set up in coordination with Social Services (the lead agency for this effort)

  7. In times of excessive heat, “cooling stations” may be established.  Cooling stations are only for individuals at high risk, and not for the general public’s comfort.  People should not proceed directly to an established cooling center. Individuals at risk should call local Social Services to be referred to a cooling center.

  8. Temporary transport of an at-risk individual to a cooling station is an emergency. Social Services will work directly with Essex County EMS and available private providers to transport immobile high-risk persons to these centers. Staff cars may be used for transport unless individuals are completely device dependent.

  9. Persons at risk who are mobile or those seeking comfort are advised to make use of malls, libraries and government buildings during the day to reduce their risk.  

  10. Children, disabled adults and pets should not be left in vehicles for any period of time.

Heat Safety Tweets/Facebook Posts


Learn how to be safe in the heat. Visit for more. #heatsafety

Keep the water bottles handy. It's going to be HOT today. More #heatsafety tips at

When temperatures rise do you know how to prevent heat-related illness? Prepare for heat,

When temps rise limit your outdoor activity to morning & evening hours. Know the signs of heat-related illness

Are you ready for the heat? Read #heatsafety tips at

NEVER leave children or pets in a closed car, even with a window cracked. More tips at

Stay cool. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. #heatsafety


Never leave children, disabled adults or pets in parked vehicles! Each year, dozens of children and untold numbers of pets left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate its internal temperature.

Outdoor workers can be at a higher risk to the effects of excessive heat. Here are some recommended practices when working under hot conditions: Drink water often, rest and cool down in the shade during breaks, gradually increase workload and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more, know the symptoms, prevention, and emergency response to prevent heat-related illness and death and check weather forecasts ahead of time to be better prepared.

Check on your neighbors. Although anyone can suffer heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. People aged 65 or older are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and complications that can result during periods of high temperatures and humidity.

The summer months can be brutal to your dog. Dogs are much more susceptible to heatstroke than humans. Dogs wear their fur coat all year round. Dogs have sweat glands on their feet, but they do not have them on the rest of their body. They rely on panting, a method of breathing out excess heat, to cool down their bodies. This method is not as effective as sweating. Keep pets cool this summer:  wet down your dog before and during outside sessions, limit outside time, and stay in the shade and walk on the grass as much as possible.