North Texas heat emergencies soar; Dallas facing triple calls of 2021
With the Dallas-Fort Worth area on track to hit weather records of 100 degrees this summer, emergency responders have reported a dramatic increase in responses to heat-related emergencies.
MedStar, the regional EMS government authority for Fort Worth and 14 other North Texas cities, more than doubled the number of heat-related responses this summer. The group reported 455 heat-related responses from May 1 to July 11, 2022, compared to 211 total responses during the same period in 2021.
“I don’t think anyone really has a clue what’s going on,” said Matt Zavadsky, chief transformation officer.
He postulated that prolonged extreme heat, the ease of pandemic social restrictions, the influx of new residents to the area, and even inflation could all account for the dramatic increase.
“Last year, early in the summer, a lot of people were still kind of sequestered or locked down because of the pandemic,” Zavadsky said. “So they weren’t out and parks, lakes, pools and all that kind of stuff.”
While North Texas typically experiences high temperatures, Zavadsky said summer 2021 had a “soft start” compared to this year, which is on track to break several records. Residents new to the area might not be prepared for the heat, he said.
Transports to hospitals in the region have increased by 103% this year, with 305 transports in total as of July 11. At this time last year, there were 150 transports. Among those transported, 81 were in serious condition, compared to 46 in 2021.
However, the total number of people in critical condition remained relatively stable, with 15 cases reported as of July 11, just one more patient than the previous year during the same period.
MedStar teams reported that most calls came from streets and highways, with likely victims of construction workers and homeless people. Of the 127 of these pitches, 70% were male.
Another significant location for heat-related illnesses was in residences, with 72 calls coming from single-family residences. Twenty-one people in need were over 65 years old.
“The question then becomes, did these people who had heat-related illness elsewhere, come home and then call us, or are they trying to save money?” said Zavadsky. “Because everything is so much more expensive now.”
Electricity rates in Texas jumped 70% this summer as natural gas prices rose.
Dallas Fire-Rescue reported a threefold increase in environmental emergency responses this summer. From May 1 to July 12, 2022, the department responded to 239 emergencies, compared to 71 during the same period in 2021.
Jason Evans, the department’s public information officer, attributed the increase to warm weather in early summer.
“As well as ensuring situational awareness among our own members, so they don’t fall victim to heat-related illnesses; we also encourage residents to follow some basic safety tips like staying hydrated and wearing loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing,” the department said in a statement.
The department also encouraged residents to use Dallas Recreation Centers, “which serve as cooling stations during regular business hours (generally 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.).”
Dallas opened two cooling centers this summer at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the West Dallas Multipurpose Center.
Zavadsky said MedStar responded to four calls from children left in a hot car this summer. Children’s Health in Dallas said in a written statement that young children should never be left unattended in the car, even with the air conditioning on. They recommended creating reminders to check your back seat before leaving your car and leaving your phone or purse in the back seat.
A child’s body temperature warms up three to five times faster than an adult.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion, stroke
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dry mouth, dizziness, and excessive sweating. If left untreated, the condition can progress to heat stroke, a more serious condition requiring hospitalization.
“If the idea crosses your mind that you should call 911, you should call us,” Zavadsky said. He recommended calling as soon as the patient experiences “an altered level of consciousness”.
Heatstroke occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate temperature on its own; its symptoms include vomiting, skin hot to the touch, muscle cramps, loss of consciousness, and rapid heartbeat.
“If you see any of the warning signs of heat stroke, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency,” said Jeffery Metzger, chief of emergency services at Parkland Health, in an e -mail. “Have someone call 911 for immediate medical assistance while you begin to cool the victim.”
While waiting for medical assistance, Metzger recommended moving the patient to a shaded area and using cold water such as a shower, garden hose or sponge to reduce their body temperature. Do not use an ice bath. If the victim is unconscious or “very confused”, do not give them liquid to drink.
First responders themselves are at risk for heat-related illnesses due to equipment, gear and prolonged exposure outdoors, Metzger said.
“The insulating qualities of firefighting equipment are such that they can put firefighters at increased risk of heat-related problems, even when temperatures are cool,” Dallas Fire-Rescue Fire Chief said. Dominique Artis in a press release. “That’s why we encourage our members to stay well hydrated long before, as well as during and after, having to exert themselves at the scene of a fire or any other incident.
A warmer than normal summer
The weather is currently close to breaking several records.
Monday was the 18th day of 100-degree heat in DFW, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. Dallas has typically experienced 10 to 20 100-degree days each year for the past decade.
2011 holds the record for 71 days at 100 degrees in total. Monday marked the 8th consecutive 100 degree day of the heat wave year and temperatures are expected to exceed 100 degrees every day this week.
ERCOT issued a conservation alert on Monday, although power outages were largely avoided. The group reported a new record of 78,379 megawatts in usage around 4:40 p.m. and forecast just over 79,000 megawatts on Tuesday.
A Heat Advisory and Air Quality Alert (Ozone Day of Action) remain in effect for DFW.