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Seasonal Preparedness: It’s Almost Summertime and the Heat and Humidity Are Coming

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

 The old adage states that the best time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens.  Summer starts next week and if last year’s summer temperatures are any indication of the impacts of extreme heat across the globe, it’s time to start thinking ahead about how we might best deal with a period of prolonged high heat.  While we in New Jersey did not see temperatures at dangerous levels for an extended period like other US cities broiling in the summer heat did, we did experience uncomfortable periods.  Our high levels of humidity also plagued our summer conditions raising the “heat index” to uncomfortable levels.  Humid heat makes it harder for the body to release heat and cool off and thus is more dangerous at lower temperatures. 

FlyerChillOutNJYou may have seen the “NJ Scientific Report on Climate Change" produced in 2020 that warned that “New Jersey is warming at a faster rate than the global average and faster than any other state in the Northeastern United States”[1]  It warns that extreme heat events are expected to become more frequent, impact more areas, and last longer. We are already experiencing the impacts of extreme heat.  15 of the 20 hottest years recorded in New Jersey have occurred since 2000 with the summer of 2022 ranking as the third warmest summer in New Jersey since recordkeeping began in 1895. 

Extreme heat events may not be as visibly dramatic as other natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, or floods, but they are far deadlier. In 2022 alone, an average of 700 deaths and more than 67,000 emergency department visits in the United States were attributed to extreme heat events such as heatwaves.”

What exactly is the heat index?  

When you combine high air temperatures with the relative humidity it becomes difficult for perspiration to evaporate.  If the perspiration is not able to evaporate, the body cannot reduce its temperature.  When the relative humidity is high, the rate of evaporation from the body decreases.  In other words, the human body feels warmer in humid conditions.  There is direct relationship between the air temperature and relative humidity and the heat index, meaning as the air temperature and relative humidity increase (decrease), the heat index increases (decreases).

Extreme Heat

Extreme heat is defined as a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two to three days. During a period of extreme heat your body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature, which can lead to death.

Extreme heat events can greatly impact many aspects of daily life and wellbeing. Outside of overall daytime and nighttime discomfort, exposure to extreme heat is dangerous to all people, especially vulnerable populations. Given this, typical daily activities such as going outdoors to the grocery store or pharmacy, taking a walk, or even staying at home without access to an air conditioning unit can become dangerous. Increased nighttime temperatures can lead to sleep deprivation, which has negative physical and mental health outcomes.

Also, extreme heat can create hazardous conditions in the built environment that we live around, such as superheating pavements, warping train tracks, and buckling roads. Communities within New Jersey’s cities are particularly at risk during extreme heat events due to the Urban Heat Island Effect, when urban areas are hotter than surrounding rural or forested areas.

This is a problem that is not going away.  So, let’s review some basic information about extreme heat and help you to plan for what you might do to be better prepared.

Who’s at risk?

Older adults, children, sick or overweight individuals, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions are at greater risk from extreme heat.

We offer the following tips from, a government website promoting emergency preparedness, to help you stay safe during the hot and humid days ahead. 

Prepare for Extreme Heat

  • Learn to recognize the signs of heat illness.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses. 
  • Identify places in your community where you can go to get cool such as libraries and shopping malls or contact your local health department to find a cooling center in your area. 
  • Cover windows with drapes or shades.
  • Weather-strip doors and windows.
  • Use window reflectors specifically designed to reflect heat back outside.
  • Add insulation to keep the heat out.
  • Use a powered attic ventilator, or attic fan, to regulate the heat level of a building’s attic by clearing out hot air.
  • Install window air conditioners and insulate around them.
  • If you are unable to afford your cooling costs, weatherization or energy-related home repairs, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for help.
  • Apply for Free Air-Conditioning Units through the Medi-Cool Program.  Learn more at the bottom of this article under "Additional Resources."


  • Never leave people or pets in a closed car on a warm day.  If you have a toddler in your household, lock your cars, even in your own driveway.  Kids play in cars or wander outside and get into a car and can die in 10 minutes!
  • If air conditioning is not available in your home, go to a cooling center. Check out Chill Out NJ, an interactive mapping application to help find cool places around the state to get relief from the heat. [Other places to get relief from the heat include: indoor shopping venues, movie theaters, museums, youth and community centers, and churches/synagogues.]  You may also call 2-1-1 to find a designated cooling center near you during a heat emergency.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Use your oven less to help reduce the temperature in your home.
  • If you’re outside, find shade. Wear a hat wide enough to protect your face. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid high-energy activities or work outdoors, during midday heat, if possible.
  • Check on family members, older adults, and neighbors.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • Consider pet safety. If they are outside, make sure they have plenty of cool water and access to comfortable shade. Asphalt and dark pavement can be very hot to your pet’s feet.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and ways to respond. If you are sick and need medical attention, contact your healthcare provider for advice and shelter in place if you can. If you are experiencing a medical emergency call 9-1-1.


  • Signs:
    • Extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F) taken orally 
    • Red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat
    • Rapid, strong pulse
    • Dizziness, confusion, or unconsciousness

If you suspect heat stroke, call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives. Do not give the person anything to drink.


  • Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs


  • Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, fast or weak pulse, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea, vomiting

If you have signs of heat cramps or heat exhaustion, go to a cooler location, and cool down by removing excess clothing and taking sips of sports drinks or water. Call your healthcare provider if the symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.

As the summer season kicks off, please pay attention to possible health impacts from heat exposure, especially during heatwaves. Heat Hub NJ provides a one stop shop to learn about heat health and how to stay safe. New to Heat Hub is Chill Out NJ, an interactive mapping application to help folks find cool places around the state to get relief from the heat.  Ewing currently has two cooling centers, the Hollowbrook Community Center, and the Mercer County Library on Scotch Road.

Heat is a leading weather-related killer generating hundreds of fatalities every year.  Follow the recommendations above to be smart and safe during the summertime heat.

Additional Resources

  • Check Out Chill Out NJ-to find unofficial spaces to keep cool.
  • NJ Board of Public Utilities, Utility Assistance Programs If you need help with your utility bills, are in danger of utility shut off or are currently disconnected, apply for one of the free utility grant programs on this page and inform your utility company immediately.
  • Home Energy Assistance Hotline – 2-1-1
  • PSE&G Check out their Get Help Paying Your Bill
  • Catholic Charities This organization also provides utility assistance.
  • The Salvation Army also provides utility assistance. Their programs and services vary with local needs. Find your local Salvation Army with their local search for information on specific programs.
  • Medi cool Program Mercer CountyApply for Free Air-Conditioning Units through the Medi-Cool Program.   Seniors or disabled residents of Mercer County may be eligible for one of 5,000 free air conditioning units through the Medi-Cool Program. To be eligible, individuals must meet the below criteria and not have received a unit within the past 3 years. Funding for the program is being provided by the Mercer County Department of Human Services Office on Aging, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, and Rise, A Community Service Partnership of Hightstown.
    Those who are approved will receive a voucher and be given a specific date and time to pick up their air conditioner from a storage facility in Trenton. Please apply soon as supplies are limited.
    To be eligible you must:
    • Be 60+ with a disability or illness that restricts normal daily tasks, threatens one's ability to live independently, or puts one at risk of harm due to unfavorable environmental conditions.
    • 18+ with a disability and currently receiving SSI or SSD.
    • Have an income that is considered 200% below the poverty line.
    • Have assets that total no more than $2,000.
    • Not have received an air conditioner through this program within the last three (3) years.