BY RANDAL C. HILL
Thank you, engineer Willis Haviland Carrier (1876 – 1950), the “Father of Cool,” for inventing the first electrical air conditioning unit in 1902, and thus making Florida inhabitable year-round.
Today, we enjoy climate-controlled comfort with the touch of a button—that is until a hurricane downs our trees and power lines. Should one come along, we could be off the grid for days or weeks.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are prime threats this time of year, and the elderly are especially vulnerable. In 2017, Hurricane Irma left 6.1 million folks without electricity, which led to the tragic deaths of eight nursing home residents.
Preparing for such a situation now could save trouble— and lives. Consider these tips to guide you through such an event:
Before the storm:
Stock up on batteries; consider battery-operated room and personal fans too. Some of the handhelds come with misters, which are nice to have around on hot summer
days anyway. You can find them at Amazon.com.
Freeze some water bottles and store ice in coolers, freezer, and yes, even your washing machine. Stock up on fruits and veggies, as well as non-refrigerated snacks and canned goods. Plan to have a week or two supply of bottled water on hand: one gallon per person, per day. Staying hydrated is key.
Make sure you have plenty of medicine and other supplies for pets, children and the elderly. Store valuables in a safe, dry place.
Do laundry, wash your dishes, bathe and shampoo. Remember it could be a while before you have these luxuries back.
In the case of power loss:
Wear cotton clothing or moisture-wicking apparel. Make sure the elderly, especially those with cognitive problems, choose appropriate dress as well. Wet or dampened T-shirts or cooling vests will help.
Periodically, apply a wet or damp towel on the back of the neck, wrists, elbows, behind the knees, the groin area, and the ankles to keep your internal temperature down. A cold shower or bath becomes even better with the use of peppermint soap, which offers an added cooling effect.
If you have a pool, you’ll want to take frequent dips. Hose everyone down from time to time.
Try to sleep away from the body heat of another person. (Lying spread-eagle allows air to circulate around the body.) Keep a washcloth and bucket of water near you at bedtime to refresh and cool the skin should you become hot and uncomfortable during the night.
In time, the electric power will again flow, the AC will hum back to life, and, sooner or later, the Sunshine State will be restored to a near-perfect paradise.