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Extreme heat can be dangerous for everyone in Texas, including people with disabilities and service animals. Learn about the dangers and how you can prepare.
Texas is hot
Climate change has increased the risk for extreme temperatures across Texas. High temps make people more likely to experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Also, extreme heat and drought create conditions that are favorable for wildfires. In 2022 alone, there were 279 heat-related deaths and over 12,000 wildfires in Texas.
Be in the know
It’s important to know when extreme heat is coming so you can prepare and limit your exposure. Make sure you understand the different heat-related warnings and what actions you should take when one is issued. You can be alerted about extreme heat in various ways. One is to get alerts through the FEMA app or a weather app. Another is to watch the weather where you live, either by regularly watching the news, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, etc.
Prepare for the heat
You can do a number of things to your home to keep the hot air out and the cool air in. Whether there’s a specific heat warning in place or if it’s just the extended summer we experience these days, it’s good to do what you can do ahead of time.
Stay cool at home
Some examples include covering windows with drapes or shades, weather stripping doors and windows, and adding insulation. Learn more about what you can do to prepare your home for extreme heat.
Utility providers might also have programs to help you cool your home. Also, if you are experiencing financial hardship and can’t pay your utility bills, look into programs like Texas Utility Help or the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program.
Find out where you can cool off
There may be resources available or places you can go to stay cool and avoid the heat. Below are examples of things you can do.
- Ask your local emergency management department about their heat plans.
- Identify cooling centers in your area. These could be at places like local libraries or Salvation Army centers. To find information about cooling centers, check with your city or county government, connect with 2-1-1 Texas, or contact your local United Way.
- Utility providers might partner with local organizations to operate cooling centers. For example, Reliant’s Beat the Heat program is available in Corpus Christi, Houston, and North Texas. Ask your utility provider if they have a similar program.
Understand heat-related illness
Exposure to extremely hot temperatures can be dangerous for everyone, including people with disabilities and pets. For people, extreme heat can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke, which can be fatal. Be familiar with the warning signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.
High temperatures and drought can create conditions that are favorable for wildfires, so it’s important to be prepared.
Have a plan
You may know well ahead of time that extreme heat is coming, but a wildfire can pop up out of nowhere, so prepare now. Have a home fire escape plan (that includes your pets), and have an exit strategy for when you’re out and about in the community. Learn about more precautions you can take before a wildfire.
If conditions are favorable for wildfires, the FEMA app and weather apps will communicate advisories. If a wildfire is in your area, you should receive notifications through weather and emergency alerts.
Wildfires create smoke that can affect the air quality many miles from where the fire is happening. The smoke can include ash and other substances that can be harmful to breathe, especially for people who are sensitive to poor air quality.
Whether there’s a wildfire in your area or hundreds of miles away, it can be a good idea to monitor the air quality so you know when it’s safe to go outside and when you should stay in. One way to monitor air quality is with the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow mobile app.
Protect your home
You can take proactive steps to protect your home and the surrounding area from wildfires. For example, keep your roof and gutters free from dead leaves that could catch fire, and utilize fire resistant landscaping to prevent fire from reaching your home.
Use the tips and checklists in Ready, Set, Go! to create your own personal wildfire action plan.
- Evacuation Chairs – National Disability Rights Network (webinar)
- Extreme Heat Safety – American Red Cross (includes Extreme Heat Safety Checklist in multiple languages)
- Extreme Heat – Ready.gov
- Wildfires – Texas Ready
Publication Code: DPR16
Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.
The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.
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