Heat Stress Prevention for First Responders

Heat Stress Prevention for First Responders

Summer heat is tough for anyone, but firefighters, peace officers, EMTs, and paramedics are at increased risk when heat’s extreme.

First responders are outdoors for extended periods of time, often in the sun. They’re also usually wearing heavy gear such as firefighting equipment, bulletproof vests (for officers), or other bulky protective equipment.

When these factors combine with elevated temperatures, heat stress can set in quickly. So it’s important for first responders and their departments to be well-versed in both the symptoms and best measures for prevention.

 

Heat-Related Illnesses: A Slippery Slope

Heat stress can progress from mild to life-threatening when symptoms aren’t addressed. Here are the main stages:

  1. Heat Cramps or Rashes – Caused by increased sweating, cramps, and rashes are the first sign of stress.
  2. Heat Exhaustion – At this stage, the body is overheating as a result of excessive loss of water and salt.
  3. Heatstroke – The most serious heat-related illness, heat stroke happens when the sweating mechanism breaks down and is no longer able to cool the body. Heatstroke can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

Signs of heat stress aren’t always obvious — brush up on the symptoms of the above conditions here.

 

Prevention

Preventive measures can be taken by first responders themselves, as well as their crew members, supervisors, and departments. The most successful heat safety protocols are adopted department-wide and include elements such as:

  • Hydration – Staying hydrated is the most important tactic for preventing heat illness. Although first responders know the importance of hydration, it can easily be forgotten in the middle of emergency situations. Water should be made accessible at all times to first responder crews, with the encouragement to hydrate well and often.
  • Knowing the signs – It’s important that both supervisors and team members know the signs of heat stress, both to self-monitor and to look out for their colleagues. Implementing a buddy system where partner pairs observe each other for signs of heat stress is also a good idea.
  • Rest breaks – Rest periods are essential to ensure that workers can hydrate and cool down. They should occur more frequently when temperatures, humidity, or sunshine increases, when air is stagnant, during especially taxing work, and when workers are wearing protective clothing or gear.
  • Cooling station – Especially when emergency calls are extended, a temporary set up where responders can retreat and take a rest is important. For instance, some fire stations supply their crews with trailers with a large fan and a mister; some have air-conditioned “rehab trucks” for firefighters on extended calls.
  • Training – Before the hot weather begins, employers should provide heat stress training to all workers and supervisors so they’re better prepared. When possible, training should cover conditions specific to that work site or area.
  • Heat alert program – When extreme heat is forecast, it’s important for employers and supervisors to implement a heat alert program, and ensure their workforce is safe and on the lookout.
  • Acclimatization – First responders can become acclimatized to working in hot environments, gradually increasing their physical stamina and sweating proficiency. Acclimatization is achieved through evidence-based training programs provided by employers.
  • Fitness — The risk of heat stress increases with obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, lack of physical fitness, and certain medications. All the more reason for first responders to improve their diet and exercise where they can.

 

Finally, although not a factor in heat illness per se, extensive sun exposure over time increases skin cancer risk. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that skin cancer risk in firefighters is greater than in the general population. Wearing (sweat-proof) sunscreen should be a daily habit.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

 

Heat Safety for Pets

Heat Safety for Pets

Just as hot summer days can be dangerous for people, they also put our 4-legged companions at risk of heat stress.

When the temperature soars this season, follow the 9 tips below to keep your pets safe and healthy.

  1. Never Leave Pets in a Parked Car

In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside your car rises almost 20°F. In 20 minutes, it’s up by 30°F, and in 60 minutes — it’s almost 40°F hotter than the temperature outside. So, even when windows are cracked, your car’s in the shade or “it’ll just take a minute,” never leave your pet in a parked vehicle.

  1. Keep the Water Dish Full

Making sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water is important all the time, but especially when it’s hot or humid out. They can get dehydrated quickly, so keep an eye on their bowl (or put an extra out). And on the topic of pet bowls, what’s the gold standard for cleaning? A daily wash with hot water, air-dry, and once-a-week sanitizing.

  1. Watch the Asphalt

On hot days, a rule of thumb is to put your hand on the pavement and wait 7 seconds. If it’s too hot, that means it’s unsafe for your dog’s paws, which can suffer burns. Also, remember pets’ bodies are much closer to the ground, so absorb more of the radiating heat and can overheat.

  1. Mind the Fireworks

They’re why the Thundershirt® was invented. Though some pets are oblivious to fireworks, many are scared and some even terrified. During fireworks-heavy holidays, keep your pets in a quiet, secure area of your home (not outside). And never use fireworks around them, as they can potentially get burned or traumatized.

  1. Don’t Shave Your Dog

Owners of long-haired dogs sometimes get side-eye while out for dog walks in the summer months, but it turns out that dogs’ coats have evolved to protect them against cold and hot temperatures. Leaving his coat au naturel will help him better regulate his temperature and protect against sunburn. For cats, you can brush them more often during hot weather to help them shed.

  1. Know How Pets Cool Themselves

Dogs use panting, not sweating, to keep cool. They’ll also seek shady spots and drink a lot of water to replenish moisture lost through evaporation. A cat’s first line of defense is finding a cool surface or dark place to wait out the heat. They’ll also lick their coats more often, which allows saliva to evaporate and cause a cooling effect.

  1. Watch for Signs of Overheating

Symptoms of overheating include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, weakness or collapse, glazed eyes, increased heart rate, excessive drooling, or vomiting. Their body temperature rises above 104°F and their gum coloration turns bright red, pale or blueish purple. If your pet is overheated, take steps to cool them down (douse them in room temperature water, move them to shade or A/C) and contact your vet immediately. Animals with flat faces (e.g. Persian cats, pugs) are more susceptible to heat stress.

  1. Keep Exercise Light

Limit your pets’ exercise on especially hot days. Shift walks to the early morning or evening and always carry water to keep your dog from dehydrating.

  1. Mind the Humidity

It’s not just the temperature, but the humidity, that affects animals. They pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs (thus cooling themselves), so when the water content in the air rises their cooling system is affected. The more humid, the greater risk they face for overheating. Use extra caution on humid days.

 

Once you know what to look for and pay attention to, keeping your pets safe in the heat becomes second nature.

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Surviving Extreme Heat, Heat Exhaustion, & More

Surviving Extreme Heat, Heat Exhaustion, & More

Its summertime and temperatures are quickly on the rise!

Extreme heat is more than an inconvenience though; it is a health hazard. It’s extremely important that we do all that we can to avoid overheating and that we all know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses like:

Heat Cramps

These are muscular pain or spasms in the leg or abdomen – often the first sign of trouble. Getting a person to a cooler place and hydrating them with water or sports drinks usually alleviates them.

 

Heat Exhaustion

This is much more severe with symptoms of:

    • Cool moist pale, ashen or flushed skin
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Weakness
    • Exhaustion

Treatment includes moving to a cooler place with circulating air, remove or loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Spraying a person with water helps as well as giving small amounts of fluids such as water, fruit juice, milk or sports drinks. If symptoms persist, call medical help immediately

 

Heat Stroke

This is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms include high body temperature (above 103 degrees); hot, red skin; rapid and strong pulse; confusion, and possible unconsciousness. Immediately:

    • Call 911
    • Move the person to a cooler place
    • Cool them with water by immersing them or spraying them
    • Cover them with ice packs or bags of ice

Children and Pets are at Risk

Don’t forget your precious cargo when the weather heats up. We think that it will never happen to our families, unfortunately, each year an average of 37 children and many hundreds of pets die from being left in hot cars. The majority is the result of a parent or caregiver who forgot the child or pet was in the vehicle. Even on a 70-degree day, the inside temperature can climb to a dangerous 110 degrees.

New technology and apps are being developed to warn parents of a child left in a car or truck, and the 2017 GMC Acadia will be the first vehicle with a built-in sensor that alerts drivers to check the back seat for children or pets left in the car. Until these are tested and more readily available, safety groups have mounted campaigns to prevent child heatstroke danger with these warning tips:

    • Never leave a child or pet in an unattended vehicle
    • Keep vehicles locked so children can’t climb in
    • Always check the back seat before leaving the vehicle
    • Place a stuffed toy in the car seat when it’s unoccupied and move it to the front seat as a visible reminder when you put a child in the seat
    • Put a purse, briefcase or other important items in the back seat with your infant or young child
    • Alert childcare facilities to notify you if your child fails to show up
    • Call 911 if you see a child alone in a vehicle and take action if you see they are in distress or unresponsive (break a window and remove them to a cool place and wait for emergency responders)

Personal Safety

When extremely hot weather hits, these are things you can do to alleviate the danger:

    • Drink plenty of water and rehydrating sports drinks
    • Avoid strenuous work during the heat of the day
    • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing
    • Stay indoors as much as possible
    • Never leave children or pets in a vehicle
    • Go to a basement or lowest floor of a house or building if there is no air conditioning
    • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in cool public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theaters, malls, and other community facilities
    • Spend time at a community pool or water park
    • Check on family, friends, and neighbors (especially the very young or old) who do not have air conditioning

Home Prep

Ready.gov has an extensive list of recommendations to help keep your home cool when the temperature rises:

    • Install window air conditioners snugly and insulate them
    • Check air conditioning ducts for proper insulation
    • Install temporary window reflectors (such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard) to reflect heat back outside
    • Cover windows that receive direct sunlight with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers
    • Keep storm windows up

Automobile Prep

Your car takes a beating in extreme heat. It’s a good reminder to:

    • Test your battery
    • Check your fluids – oil, coolant, and wiper fluid
    • Get your air conditioning serviced
    • Inspect all hoses and belts for cracks or tears
    • Carry extra water or coolant

 

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.800.800.9410 or www.calcas.com.

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Are You and Your Motorcycle Road-Ready?

Late summer riding beckons; open roads, open skies, long days, and beautiful sunsets. The flipside? Extreme heat. And also a transition period of reacquainting yourself with the roads and traffic. Use these tips to keep your bike and yourself cool and safe.

 

For Your Bike

Keeping your ride cool and running smoothly through the summer usually entails a little extra maintenance. Here are some of the priority areas to fitness-check before setting out.

  • Tires – Tire blowouts are usually caused by underinflated, rather than overinflated, tires. Make sure to inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. And remember that high external temps cause tire pressure to increase due to expanding gas. Check them each week and adjust as necessary. Also keep an eye on the tires’ condition, looking for any cracks, punctures, bulges, or worn tread.
  • Fluids – Check oil, brake, coolant, hydraulic fluids, and their reservoirs for debris, condensation, and discoloration or changed consistency. Get them changed if they’re due. Check the water pump and hoses regularly for leaks, cracks, and tears. Pro tip: cover your radiator to keep the engine cool (and protect it from dirt, bugs and UV rays). On the hottest days, avoid stationary idling to prevent engine overheating.
  • Gas tank – If your bike has been sitting all winter with fuel in the tank, it might not start up. Drain the tank — if there’s any brown grit in the fuel, your tank has probably rusted. You can take it to a mechanic or DIY by flushing with acid remover. After cleaning, treat the new gasoline with a fuel stabilizer.
  • Electrical connections – If your electrical connections aren’t secure, the moisture from humid environments can short the connection and stop your bike from functioning. Inspect all wires and connections to components (including battery) and fasten any loose ones. If they’re corroded, it’s best to replace them.

 

For You

Riding in extreme heat can increase your chance of health risks, overheating, and accident risk. Follow these tips to stay safe and comfortable.

  • Hydration – Staying hydrated is one of the best preventive measures for summer riding. Drink water at every stop and consider purchasing a CamelBak for extended rides. Avoid alcohol, as it can easily dehydrate you.
  • Sun safety – Even if it’s overcast, you’re still getting hit by UV rays. Wear sunscreen and reapply to exposed skin as often as possible.
  • Clothing – Safe riding means extra layers, even in the summer heat. Here are some hacks to keep you cool in your gear.
    • Form-fitting sportswear can keep your body temperature down – look for moisture-wicking fabric.
    • A lightweight base layer under your jacket and pants can prevent discomfort and keep you dry.
    • When leather pants are too hot, check out specialized jeans that have Kevlar fabric lining and other safety components. Never wear shorts.
    • Opt for ventilated summer-weight boots, which allow airflow to cool the feet and ankles.
    • Mesh-backed gloves will let you grip the handles while allowing for ventilation – as well as hand protection in case of a fall or skid.
    • There are options for jackets that protect while keeping you comfortable in the heat. Ventilated jackets with mesh panels allow for aeration, and many perforated leather jackets come with zip vents, which help you release body heat.
    • A proper helmet – required by law in all but 3 states – is safety rule number one. Investing in a breathable, lightweight and ventilated helmet will keep your head (and by extension, your body) cool and protected. The best ones are usually carbon fiber.

 

Get Re-Accustomed to the Road

If you’ve been traveling mostly by car and are just getting back to the roads on 2 wheels, give yourself some time to re-adjust. You no longer have the wrap-around metal protection of a vehicle, and you may need to fine-tune your reaction time for sharing the road with cars.

Most motorcycle accidents are attributed to unsafe lane changes, car doors, speeding, sudden stops, left-turn accidents, and lane splitting, among others, so make sure you’re visible to the cars around you.

Finally, know the signs of heat stress (check out our article here). It can come on suddenly, so knowledge and prevention are your tools to stay cool and healthy.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

First (or Fourth) Time Homebuyers Guide

First (or Fourth) Time Homebuyers Guide

Purchasing a home is an extremely exciting adventure in the life journey – in fact, more than anything it might represent achieving the American dream. For all the excitement though, it can be confusing, challenging, and stressful. And even for those who’ve done it before, today’s real estate and credit markets are significantly different from even five years ago.

So, whether you’re embarking on this journey as a first-time home buyer, taking advantage of record-low interest rates, or just planning on downsizing or upgrading, follow our guide to help get you in great home-buying shape.

 

Phase 1: Prepping and Planning

1. Decide how much you can afford – If you’re like many, your home is the largest purchase you’ll ever make – so the biggest question is around how much you can comfortably afford. This is determined according to your income, debt, credit score, location, and more. Then there’s the down payment, for which you’ll probably need to have a savings plan to reach (typical amount is 10-20% of the home value). You can use a home affordability calculator or, better yet, talk to a financial planner.

2. Put your financial ducks in a row – You’ll want to be in good financial shape before house shopping. That means paying off all or most of your debt and making sure you have an emergency fund. The latter will be helpful for those unexpected expenses you’ll have as a new homeowner (that you didn’t have to worry about as a renter!). You’ll also want to save for closing costs (typically 2-5% of loan amount), moving expenses, repairs, and other various expenses.

3. Strengthen your credit – Your credit score affects what loans you will qualify for, so you want it as strong as possible. Get free credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion and make sure there aren’t any errors. Then build your score by making sure to pay all bills on time and keeping card balances low. If you don’t have much credit history, quickly start building your score by putting a utility bill or two in your name and staying current on your payments.

4. Educate yourself – Get familiar with all the steps of the process, including all the costs along the way and the people who will be involved. Your main contact (and person working on your behalf) will be your real estate agent, but you will/may also be working with a seller’s agent, broker, loan officer, underwriter, appraiser, listing agent, loan servicer, home inspector, and others.

5. Work with recommended professionals – The most important of these is your real estate agent, who will be representing you and your interests through the process. Ask for recommendations in your circle. Pro tip: You may get referrals to “real estate agents,” “realtors,” and “real estate brokers.” What’s the difference? The first is a licensed professional representing buyers or sellers, the second is a real estate agent who’s a member of the realtors’ association, and the last generally has more training and may work independently or have their own firm.

6. Explore your mortgage options – You can go with all kinds of lenders – all of which have a different down payment and eligibility requirements. Make sure you look at the range of loans, including conventional mortgages as well as loans offered by the FHA, USDA, and VA. As a first-time homebuyer, be sure to research federal or local assistance programs for your buying cohort – they typically offer advantages and savings not offered to other home buyers! After your research, carefully compare the different loan fees and rates.

7. Get pre-approved – After you’ve chosen a preferred lender, apply for pre-approval. Having a pre-approval letter (which specifies the lender’s offer amount) shows real estate agents and home sellers that you’re serious about buying, which can put you at the front of the bidder line.

 

Phase 2: House Shopping

8. Research the area – Smart buyers don’t make buying decisions based on the property and house alone. Make sure you thoroughly research the neighborhood (visiting it at different times and days) and think about proximity to schools and workplaces. Research crime rates and consider traffic congestion and freeway access. Also, know the value of homes in the area – a price per square foot average is a great yardstick for making sure you don’t end up paying over market value.

9. Go to open houses – The pandemic has made online home-viewing easier than ever. Take advantage of 3D home tours, which will let you filter out homes that don’t fit your needs. From there, you can attend in-person open houses only at those homes you’re most interested in.

10. Get an inspection – Paying for a home inspection is money well spent and can save you very expensive headaches down the road. A typical inspection covers things like structural elements, grounds, attic, heating and cooling systems, roof, exterior surfaces, basement, insulation, electrical system, and all other parts of the home.   

11. Make an offer – Once you’ve found the home you want and can afford, you’ll make an offer to the seller. If you’re not sure how much that should be, lean on your agent for their expertise! They can also help guide you through any negotiating (on say, repairs) or other terms or conditions. Finally, a personalized offer letter never hurts!

12. Know the market – You may be buying in a seller’s market, a buyer’s market, or somewhere in between. Knowing the larger marketplace will help ensure you don’t over-or underbid (again, your agent should be your guide here!). If the market is especially hot you’ll be competing against lots of other offers – know your top price going in so that you don’t get saddled with debt you can’t afford.

13. Get adequate home insurance – Your lender will require homeowners insurance, so start shopping for coverage early (at least 30 days before closing). Get quotes and make sure you understand what’s covered, what’s not, what the terms are, and any additional coverage your home may need. Have questions? Give us a call – we offer special benefits to educators, firefighters, nurses, and peace officers!

Congratulations on embarking on the exciting home-buying journey! With a little extra effort, a plan, and a solid understanding of the process, you’ll be settled into the home of your dreams in no time.

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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