Hot Muggy Weather Brings Health and Safety Challenges

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 7:25am

Looking out for your Neighbors can be a Lifesaver

Forecasters are predicting that the current wave of high temperatures and humidity will be with us until this coming Sunday. While the predicted temperatures are not record-breaking, they are high enough to watch for heat-related health conditions such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

This is a very good time to check on elderly or disabled neighbors who may not have air conditioning in their homes. These neighbors can be shy about asking for help and can easily become incapacitated when temperatures in their homes reach unsafe and unhealthy levels. There are a few clues to watch for that can indicate that a neighbor is in trouble.

• A growing pile of newspapers at an elderly neighbor's front door
• Trash containers not taken out on collection day, or if the containers remain on the street after collection day
• Mail piling up in a mailbox
• If you normally see a neighbor walking a dog at the same time every day, and they don't show up one day.
• If no one answers the door when deliveries of meals on wheels or medical equipment or supplies are attempted

When you notice these situations, you should not be hesitant about knocking on your neighbor's door. No answer may mean nothing, but it could also mean that the person inside has been incapacitated by the heat. In that case, first check with other neighbors, and then call 9-1-1. One of their specially trained communicators will be able to help you determine what type of assistance is required. Also remember that apartments or houses without air conditioning can stay hot for a few days after outside temperatures drop, so be vigilant for a few days after the heat wave ends.

You can also remind your neighbors without air conditioning that they can seek relief in public buildings such as malls, libraries, theaters, Senior Centers and similar spaces. These are a great way to get out of the heat and avoid serious heat-related health problems.

We learned some difficult lessons about looking out for our neighbors during the Mid-West heat wave of 1995. The death rate from heat-related causes was much higher in neighborhoods where people kept to themselves. The death rate was much lower in neighborhoods where people knew each other and talked. So being more neighborly and even a bit nosey about elderly neighbors can turn out to be a real life-saver.

And one more important reminder - Please, NEVER leave kids or pets in a car! For more details see

For more information on the impact of heat on people, see


Public Health - Madison & Dane County


  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302