What to watch for in extreme heat waves


man sitting in front of fan with hair blowing

Here at the end of July, we’re having a little break from extreme heat, but there’s still quite a bit of summer to go so when it comes to the hot factor, we point to baseball great Yogi Berra’s saying that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There’s still plenty of beach time, camping time and general fun-in-the-sun time yet to go. If you’re not prepared for the summer heat, it can be more than just uncomfortable – it can be dangerous.

Heat danger comes in many forms and ranges across a whole spectrum from inconvenient and itchy to downright deadly. Thinking ahead and being properly prepared and equipped will help you maximize your fun in the sun.

It can’t hurt to be reminded of the basics: stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and know when to retreat to the shade. Beer, sadly enough, is not hydrating. Drink plain old water. (Sports drinks aren’t significantly better than water for hydration, either.) Sunscreen is a must for everyone who plans to spend any length of time out in the direct sun. Even the darkest skin is prematurely aged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and while dark skin does offer some protection against skin cancer, the risk is still present. If you’re heading out to the beach, check to see if beach umbrellas are available or take your own. You can’t count on the clouds to cover the sun when you need to sit in the shade and cool off.

Once you’re out in the sun, you’ll want to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of different heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention.

It’s nothing to fool around with. Every year, there are stories of people who die from preventable heat-related illnesses – the CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. See: ‘This Was Preventable’: Football Heat Deaths and the Rising Temperature

Knowing how heat affects you can help keep you safe when the sun is blasting down. Here’s some stories from some people who were going about their daily business, and suffered illness or collapse due to excessive heat. Learn from them – plan to keep cool when things heat up. Keep an eye out for those you care about who may be susceptible: kids who may not be aware of the danger, the elderly, outdoor workers — even your pets.

Get tips about how to deal with extreme heat from the National Weather Service and here’s a helpful chart from the CDC breaking down the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

 

 

“It takes seconds.” Protect your children from drowning


Summer fun often happens in or around bodies of water: lakes, ponds, pools, and beaches are abuzz with activity during the warm-weather vacation months. But fun can turn to tragedy in the blink of an eye. Drowning is the number one killer of children aged 1-4, and it much of the time it happens even while an adult is close at hand.

That’s because drowning in real life doesn’t look like what we’d expect to see. In the movies, drowning people shout and wave their arms. In real life, drowning happens quietly and quickly, as the victim succumbs to the body’s instinctual drowning response. This can look a lot like a child attempting to dog-paddle.

“The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect,” said Mario Vittone, a water safety expert. “There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning.”

The recent tragic death by drowning of Emeline Grier Miller, the 19-month-old daughter of professional beach volleyball player and model Morgan Beck Miller and her husband, US Olympic gold medalist skier Bode Miller, serves as a stark example of how fast tragedy can strike.

“It takes SECONDS,” she wrote on Instagram, urging all parents of young children to be aware of the dangers of drowning.

To see what the Instinctive Drowning Response looks like as it happens, watch this scary video (warning: child endangerment):

Stay close to your kids when you’re in the water and know what to look for. Attention and knowledge are the best tools we have to keep our children safe from this all-too-frequent threat.

Bicycling safety: new bike helmet rating system from IIHS


man and woman riding bikes, wearing bike helmets

Remember learning to ride a bike? That sense of freedom, of speed, of the world suddenly opening up for you to explore with your pedaling feet? It’s a childhood milestone that most of us remember fondly, and with good reason: bicycles are just about the most efficient means of transportation we humans have yet devised. Two slim wheels attached to a tubular frame and driven by a clever set of gears that turn our churning legs into a brisk means of locomotion, bicycles are fun to ride, good exercise, great for the environment, and easy on the budget. Choosing to commute by bicycle instead of by car can save you money while burning calories. Brightly colored body-hugging Spandex bike shorts are, of course, optional. (Thank goodness.)

If you are new to commuting by bike, you’ll want to do your homework first. Will you be biking before sunup or after sundown? You’ll need lights and reflective clothing. Is your area hilly or flat? This could determine how your bike should be geared. What are the road conditions you’ll encounter? Are there dedicated bike lanes? Will you need to traverse uneven, unpaved terrain? That will affect which tires you choose for your bike. Will you be using your bike for shopping? Maybe panniers and a basket makes sense for you.

Bikes are simple machines, but they can and do break down. Do you know how to perform basic bicycle maintenance, like adjusting the seat, oiling the chain, inflating the tires, and setting the right height of the handlebars? Most of these questions are best answered by the expert at your local bike shop. He or she can walk you through all these decisions and get you on the bike that’s right for you and your commuting and recreational needs.

New bike helmet rating system

One of the first big decisions you’ll have to make regards safety equipment; specifically, choosing a bike helmet. Recent advances in materials technology and safety studies have led to a profusion of bicycle helmet styles and choices. New bicycle helmets are made of lightweight woven polymers designed with padding to absorb impact from all angles. They vary significantly in price, and cost isn’t necessarily the best predictor of performance.

To that end, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in conjunction with the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and Virginia Tech have created a ranking system to allow bicyclists to see for themselves which helmet is best for them. According to David Zuby, the chief research officer at IIHS:

“As more people choose the bicycle as a mode of transportation, better helmet design is one of the tools that can be used to address the increasing number of cycling injuries.”

While there are federal standards that all bicycle helmets sold in the US must meet, the new standards advance the field by offering a closer analysis of more realistic accident data, gathered by researchers with experience testing other forms of protective headgear, such as hockey, football, and soccer equipment.

Steve Rowson, associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Labs says:

“Our goal with these ratings is to give cyclists an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury. We also hope manufacturers will use the information to make improvements.”

Their research found important differences in the levels of protection offered by “urban” and “road” -style helmets. They also found that helmets incorporating a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) (which works by reducing friction inside the helmet, alleviating the rotational forces that cause concussion in many common bike accidents) were safer than models lacking the MIPS system.

The team tested 30 popular bicycle helmets to start with and plans to add many more to their rankings, including helmets intended for off-road (BMX) biking. Check out their methodology and see their list of bike helmet ratings.

So strap on your shiny new helmet and get to pedaling! Just, please, not on the sidewalk. Some of us are still walking.

 

Garage door maintenance tips: A handy infographic


white garage doors

Garage doors can be pretty expensive. According to Home Advisor, the average installation cost is $1,072. Depending on factors like door size, type and material, costs can range considerably higher. Plus, there is the cost of garage door openers. If you are thinking of installing a new garage door, it will involve electrical wiring, removing and disposing your old door and new door installation – a pretty big job. Home Advisor offers good tips on garage door installation cost factors. Unless you are pretty experienced at complex home maintenance and renovation tasks, it should probably be a job that you leave to the pros.

Given the cost and complexity, if you already have a garage door, it makes good sense to include that in your annual spring and fall home maintenance checklist. The article above offers some maintenance tips, and we like the Guide to Garage Door Maintenance, Upkeep, and Safety infographic from The Fix. It offers a pictorial of the different types of doors along with pros and cons of each. It also offers garage door maintenance tips.

While thinking about garage doors, you might also check out our prior post on two ways your garage door makes you vulnerable to burglaries. If you are thinking of getting new door, it might offers some food for thought on the type and style. It features an unsettling video showing burglars breaking into garages in just 6 seconds using a wire hanger. It also offers security tips to prevent break ins.

Source: Fix.com Blog

Summer vacation safety: Avoiding travel fraud & scams


You may be on vacation, but rest assured, scammers never sleep – they are hard at work thinking of new ways to separate you from your money and your identity. Consumer Reports features an article on Summer Scams to avoid – a few of these are about travel: .

  • Vacation rental scams – you book a cute cottage via the web that requires advance payment. Except the cottage doesn’t exist. Remedy: stick to established online rental vendors.
  • Discounted hotel stays. Fraudent websites can look real and make bogus offers. Remedy: Watch out for third party sites selling hotels or other goods and services at a discount. Use reputable services and be sure to dig around on a site to make sure it is the real thing before you take out your credit card.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  talks more about vacation rental listing scams, common signs of a scam, and how to avoid being bilked. They also have an excellent
resource with travel tips designed to help you avoid scams during the travel planning and shopping process.

If you are traveling internationally, you could become an inadvertent victim of a common scam around International Driver’s license. This FTC tip sheet talks about what International Driving Permits are and what they aren’t. It says, “AAA and AATA are the only organizations authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue IDPs to U.S. residents. Both AAA and AATA charge less than $20 for an IDP. If you’re asked to pay more, consider it a rip-off.”

Rick Steves has certainly done his share of international travel over nearly five decades as a travel expert and author. He offers a great collection of common Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs. For another good resources, see this guide to other Common Travel Scams and How to Avoid Them.

Summer is a great time for travel but all too often, when in a new or relaxing place, it can be easy to lower your guard. When you’re in an unfamiliar place, it’s more important that ever to be alert and maintain high situational awareness. If something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

See more posts on common scams and frauds
And if you are going on vacation, here are 5 steps to secure your home while you are away!