SOUTH BRUNSWICK: Taking precautions during heat wave

Township has cooling center at library

By Payal Marathe, Packet Media Group
   The National Weather Service has announced a six- to seven-day heat wave will affect central New Jersey until this weekend.
   A combination of heat and humidity is expected to make temperatures feel like more than 100 degrees.
   Towns are preparing for the mid-summer heat wave by establishing public cooling centers and warning residents about the health hazards associated with this extreme weather.
   The South Brunswick Office of Emergency Management said the heat index will be between 95 and 105 degrees for the remainder of the week.
   The cooling location in South Brunswick is the South Brunswick Library at 110 Kingston Lane. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 6 p.m. Friday.
   The township OEM also is asking residents to check on elderly neighbors and friends several times a day and remind them to drink water and stay out of the sun.
   All Mercer County public libraries and several municipal senior centers in the county are designated cooling centers.
   The county has issued other suggestions for dealing with the excessive heat.
   In addition to spending time in public air-conditioned facilities such as libraries and municipal centers, people are advised to stay in the shade whenever possible, use fans at home, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and stay hydrated by drinking water and eating more fruits and vegetables.
   Anshu Bhalla, a doctor of family and geriatric medicine with Princeton Healthcare System, said a common mistake people make in an effort to stay hydrated on hot days is drinking iced coffees and cold sodas. In fact, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages only accelerate the process of dehydration, she said.
   Residents are encouraged to use sunscreen, to minimize strenuous activity outdoors and to avoid extreme temperature changes, such as taking a cold shower immediately after being overheated.
   ”Any fluctuation in body temperature that happens too quickly can be bad for cells and organs,” Dr. Bhalla said, adding she recommends a cooling-off period after overheating.
   As for recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion or a more critical case of heat stroke, Dr. Bhalla said people should look out for muscle cramps, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, skin redness or warmth, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. Confusion and light-headedness also frequently appear as symptoms of overheating, especially in elderly people, she added.
   Dr. Bhalla offered some of her own suggestions for this week’s heat advisory, recommending people avoid being outdoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the heat index tends to be the highest. Ideally, people will stay indoors as much as possible throughout the day, she said.
   She added that even when spending time inside, people should try to stay on the lowest level of their homes where it is typically coolest.
   Evaporative cooling is another potential solution to overheating, Dr. Bhalla said. Placing a cold pack or cool, wet rag on the forehead while a fan runs nearby can help lower body temperature, she said.
   The South Brunswick OEM also advised never leaving children, the elderly or pets alone in closed vehicles and to provide plenty of cool fresh water for pets, keeping them indoors and out of the sun.
   This week’s heat advisory also has sent PSEG into a mode of precaution and preparation.
   In a press release issued Monday morning, the utility announced it has extra personnel on duty in case of customer questions or power interruptions due to the extreme heat and humidity. Together with the regional grid operator PJM, the company said it has sufficient supplies to meet increased electricity demands.
   To save energy and keep homes cool, PSEG recommended people close blinds facing the sun and put off heat-producing tasks such as laundry until later in the day.