Health alerts, extreme heat warnings in NYC

June 9, 2011 3:28:10 PM PDT
New York City continues to cope with hot weather, although thunderstorms promise to cool things off a bit.

The challenge for residents is staying safely cool from this furnace-like blast of heat.

"It's a good time to stop in on a neighbor, particularly someone who is old and living by themselves, and say, you know, I just want to make sure you're cool enough," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Spring is a memory that just sizzled away. The real deal now is staying cool in this dangerous heat by staying out of the sun. Residents are also urged to use the city's cooling centers, wear light clothes (or just less of them) and drink plenty of water.

Sometimes fun can cool you down, but the subways just bake you.

"I think it's hotter down here than it is out there," one rider said. "I was managing out there until I got here. Then I started sweating."

If you're not working in the heat, cool off at a New York city beach. Just make sure there's a lifeguard on duty.

And remember, Con Edison is counting on its customers to conserve energy, so don't crank up the air conditioners full blast.

"We have all essentially all our crews ready and waiting to respond to anything that come our way," one Con Ed official said. "If there is some failure, we'll be there. We'll find it, fix it and restore it as quickly as possible."

The MTA is going to try and keep straphangers more comfortable by only opening one door on each car to keep as much cool air in as possible.

Opening hydrants is more than a tradition on city streets, it's a necessity in neighborhoods with little air conditioning and no pools.

But as Newscopter 7 found overhead in Washington Heights and as the DEP confirms, more than half of open hydrants have been opened illegally, and that's a problem.

"That hydrant open full blast can knock you or kids over, or significantly decrease water pressure which becomes a problem if we need to fight a fire in that neighborhood," said FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

The Fire Department showed Eyewitness News the correct way, using a sprinkler cap, which a firehouse will put on at an adult's request.

"We'll open it and then later on come back and close that hydrant for you," Cassano said.

On 167th Street, neighbors and more than a few cars lingered for a spray, and then DEP workers came to take it down a notch.

"Probably on order of half the amount coming out, this is good, maybe 25 gallons versus a 1,000, the amount that would spray with nothing, no cap, on," said James J. Roberts, of NYC Environmental Protection.

They replaced an old, outdated sprinkler cap with a new one and everyone was just fine with it.

Air quality alerts also were issued across the region, including in New York and New Jersey. Officials said ozone levels could cause problems for children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems. The state's Health Department said men ages 65 to 84 years of age are the largest group hospitalized for heat exposure each year.

Cooling centers in the City are public places, such as Department for the Aging (DFTA) senior centers, libraries and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Salvation Army community centers where air conditioning is available. To find the cooling center nearest to you, call 311 (TTY: 212-504-4115), or use OEM's Cooling Center Finder at, beginning at Tuesday at 8 PM OEM recommends checking the online Cooling Center Finder or calling 311 just before leaving your home to ensure the center nearest to you is open. As of Thursday night, most centers were closed.

Residents are advised to call their doctor or go to the emergency room right away if they feel sick and are urged keep a close eye on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly. Heat illness symptoms are often not specific and include:

  • Hot, dry skin or cold, clammy skin
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Confusion, hallucinations, disorientation

    The risk for getting sick during a heat wave is increased for people who:

  • Are younger than five or older than 64
  • Have chronic medical or mental health conditions such as diabetes or substance abuse disorders.
  • Are overweight
  • Take certain medications which can disrupt the regulation of body temperature
  • Are unable to leave their homes or confined to their beds
  • Drink alcohol use drugs which can impair their judgment

    If you have a medical condition or take medication, check with your physician about precautions you should take during hot weather. Family, friends, and neighbors who are at high risk will need extra help during this period of extreme heat. Think about how you can help someone you know get to an air-conditioned place.

    Ready New York - Beat the Heat Tips:

  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a cooler place such as an air-conditioned family's, friend's or neighbor's home, store, mall, museum, or movie theater, or, visit a cooling center.
  • Use a fan if the air is not too hot. Fans work best at night to bring in cooler air from outside. Use a fan only when the air conditioner is on or the windows are open.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. Avoid beverages containing alcohol, caffeine, or high amounts of sugar.
  • Never leave children, pets, or those who require special care in a parked car.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. or in the evening. If you exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are used to regular exercise, just keep in mind the symptoms of heat illness when exercising and stop or rest if any occur.
  • Be careful if you take a cold shower to stay cool - sudden temperature changes can make you feel dizzy or sick.
  • Check on your at-risk family, friends and neighbors often and help them get to a cool place.

    Spray Caps & Fire Hydrants:

  • Opening fire hydrants without spray caps is wasteful and dangerous. Illegally opened hydrants can lower water pressure, which can cause problems at hospitals and other medical facilities and hinder fire-fighting by reducing the flow of water to hoses and pumps. The powerful force of an open hydrant without a spray cap can also push children into oncoming traffic. Call 311 to report an open hydrant.
  • Hydrants can be opened legally if equipped with a City-approved spray cap. One illegally opened hydrant wastes up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, while a hydrant with a spray cap only puts out around 25 gallons per minute. Spray caps can be obtained by someone 18 or over, free of charge at local firehouses.

    Conserve Energy:

  • During periods of extremely hot and humid weather, electricity use rises, which can cause power disruptions.
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees.
  • Use air conditioners only when you're home, and only in rooms you're using. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer that turns on no more than 30 minutes before you arrive.
  • Turn off nonessential appliances.
  • To receive free notifications about power outages affecting your neighborhood sign up for Notify NYC at

    For more information on coping with extreme heat, see the Ready New York: Beat the Heat guide at For more information on the health effects associated with extreme heat visit