(Photo by Jeremy Pittari)
From water-cooled vests to closing parks, safety measures are being implemented to ensure safety as triple digit temperatures bear down on the Magnolia State.
With temperatures reaching triple digits almost daily across much of Mississippi, measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the personnel who keep things running smoothly. Power companies are taking precautions to protect their personnel and municipalities are making similar efforts to keep their employees from suffering heat related illnesses.
Mississippi Power spokeswoman Kaila Moran said that last year the company participated in a pilot program to test water cooled vests.
“Once we realized they have a positive impact, now all distribution linemen have them,” Moran said.
The water-cooled vests are worn under their regularly worn fire-retardant material. The temperature is maintained by a constant flow of cool water from an ice chilled cooler.
These vests allow crews to work a bit longer without the fear of suffering from heat related illnesses so linemen in bucket trucks and crews working in substations can get jobs done faster and safer due to the lessened need for breaks.
“Our crews really appreciate them and they are lightweight,” Moran said. “They can be worn under or on top of their uniform shirt.”
Other safety measures include ensuring all crews are properly hydrated before reporting to work, they have access to electrolytes while on the job, and that crews keep an eye on each other for the warning signs of heat related illnesses. Moran said crews use a “brother’s keeper” mentality, so when they notice a coworker suffering from heat exhaustion they ensure they take breaks and cool down.
Cecilia Dobbs Walton, Public Affairs Manager for the City of Biloxi, said employees are also taking precautions by keeping water nearby and taking breaks in the shade or in their air-conditioned vehicles for short periods.
The summer includes a lot of outdoor events, during which police officers typically provide security in Biloxi. Certain staff within the police department have the important task of making rounds at those events to ensure the officers have water or sports drinks as well as to check on the condition of those officers, Walton said.
Some cities have taken to closing some public facilities to ensure children are not injured. City of Picayune Special Projects Manager Lisa Albritton said the city made the decision to close many of the parks after city employees recorded high temperatures at several locations. Albritton said there is also concern about how hot the metal slides could get. At Friendship Park, a city employee recorded temperatures of 167 degrees on park equipment at about 11:30 a.m.
“If you’re not thinking about it and let kids go on that slide, it could burn them,” Albritton said.
City employees within Picayune are also taking more breaks and are being provided with water.
High temperatures can also affect the energy consumption at home and at city facilities.
Walton said the City of Biloxi is taking steps to keep bills low by having the city’s maintenance division ensure the various HVAC systems in the city are working to the best of their ability.
At home, power bills can be reduced by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees, especially when no one is home, Moran said. HVAC systems work best when they are not obstructed by debris or bushes, so be sure the area around those pieces of equipment is clear.
Windows allow a lot of heat to enter a home during the day. To block some of that energy, keep blinds and curtains closed. Cracks between doors and door frames, windows and window frames and other areas of a home can allow hot air in and cold air to escape. Moran suggests adding weather stripping to fill gaps between the bottoms of doors and door sills and other areas where warm air can enter a home.
If families can help it, avoid running other large appliances in the middle of the day when the AC system is most active. Doing laundry and running the dishwasher in the evening can go a long way to save some money on an electricity bill, Moran said.
Even with all of these things implemented, Moran said it is possible for an HVAC unit to have to run all day just to keep the home at 78 when temperatures reach triple digits.