City of Gainesville Safety Specialist Carlos Moore spots his colleagues hard at work on a project outside City Hall.
When he pulls up, the maintenance workers head toward him because they know he brings relief from the heat. Moore drops the tailgate on his truck and drags out a cooler packed with ice, bottles of BodyArmor sports drinks, water and electrolyte freezer pops.
“Everybody loves them,” Moore says about those electrolyte popsicles known as Sqwincher Sqweezes. He added the frozen treats to his list of offerings soon after he started working in the risk management department in 2019.
Forecasters predict rising temperatures in Florida as summer progresses and city staff have been trained on ways to prevent heat-related injuries such as sunburn, heat stroke and dehydration.
City of Gainesville Safety Specialist Douglas Prentiss along with Moore make the rounds taking turns presenting that training about heat illness prevention.
Prentiss said it’s the camp counselors and employees in parks and recreation, road crews and utility workers who spend the most time out in the heat.
“We’ll do heat injury prevention training with them so that during summer camp programs with the kids, they’ll know what to look for,” he said, adding that everyone in the public works department gets reminded every year how to stay ahead of heat injuries.
Part of that training, developed by the city’s safety and risk management department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), delivers the mantra “Water. Rest. Shade. The work can’t get done without them.”
Training includes an explanation of how heat indices should be taken into account.
The Heat Index Chart factors humidity along with temperature and reveals how hot it will feel outside when humidity is taken into account.
This time of year in Gainesville brings 90 degrees and up temperatures most days with intermittent showers and high relative humidity.
According to the chart, a 95-degree day with zero humidity will feel like 87 degrees to the everyday person. But once the humidity reaches 30 percent, it feels like 96 degrees and at 50 percent humidity, it will feel like 107 degrees.
Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) Capt. Elizabeth Braun is in charge of fire training. She said firefighters prepare for their shifts by hydrating beforehand, “and staying away from caffeine drinks,” she said.
Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Hillhouse said ideally, firefighters will, “Pound water on shift day because you know you’re going to need to stay hydrated.” He also advises no alcohol intake at least 24 hours before a shift.
Each GFR truck carries a five-gallon water cooler with ice, water, and Gatorade.
The Gainesville Police Department (GPD) uses CoolCop body armor devices that connect a hose to the air conditioning in patrol cars to send cool air relief behind bulletproof vests.
According to Capt. Braun the months of June through September bring the highest amounts of heat-injury emergency calls and some of those come from large outdoor events such as University of Florida football games and Gatornationals race days.
Not all heat-related injuries end with a 911 call,” she said. “Many citizens recognize the signs and self-treat or a friend/family member directly transports them to a health care facility.”
Braun said heat-related injuries such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke result in altered mental status such as confusion. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder and is a medical emergency.
According to the OSHA training, heat stroke occurs, “when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.”
Heat stroke symptoms also include loss of consciousness, seizures, slurred speech, and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.
The OSHA training states the response to heat-related injuries include moving the person to a cool, shaded area, soaking clothes with water, removing unnecessary clothing, fanning the body, and applying ice packs to armpits, groin and neck areas.
City of Gainesville Wellness Coordinator Kevin Culpepper encourages staff to keep a water bottle with them to be more conscious of hydrating.
“Preparation is key,” Culpepper said. “The night before you work in a hot environment, hydrate and take in electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.”
For training and more information on heat-related injuries click here.