With temperatures already soaring over 30°C in many parts of the country, this is shaping up to be a very hot summer, punctuated by heatwaves that can lead to dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke and even organ damage.
“And because heatwaves drain the power grid as households turn on more fans, coolers and air conditioners, we can probably also expect more load-shedding as well as unplanned outages,” says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group.
“Water supply interruptions and restrictions are also likely to increase, and this means that people actually need to plan ahead for extreme heat in the same way as they might for a disaster such as a tornado or an earthquake.”
Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says the priority is to ensure that you have sufficient drinking water available in bottles or larger cannisters and that you stock up on bags of ice, which will not only help you stay cool but also help to keep any food in your freezer frozen when the power goes off.
“During a longer outage you can also pack perishables from the fridge into a cooler box with ice or cold packs to make them last better. You should nevertheless eat this food first – and be prepared to throw out any that has been exposed to high heat for too long or develops an unusual colour, odour or texture.”
Everitt says you also need to make sure that you have non-perishable supplies on hand for your family in case you are without power for a few days – and enough food and water for your pets too.
“In addition, you should make sure you have a first aid kit, a spare “emergency” cell phone that you keep fully charged, a couple of power banks, a portable battery-operated radio and a some solar-powered lights. A small gas stove or gas braai is also very useful.
“You should also check that you have fuel in your car and that you can open your garage door or electric gate when there is no power.”
Once the heatwave hits, he says, you need to stay out of the sun, especially between the hours of 10am and 3pm, no matter how tempting that swimming pool may look.
“You also need to stay hydrated by purposefully drinking at least eight glasses of water a day – and make sure that any children or older people in your family drink enough too. They might not always be able to verbalise how they feel but are most at risk in high heat conditions. And if someone in your household is on life-support systems, you must of course make sure that you have a reliable back-up power supply.
“Then if you are using a generator, be sure to follow all the operating instructions, and never run it in an enclosed space such as a garage or storeroom. If you want to connect the generator to your home’s electrical system, you will need a proper transfer switch, which should only be installed by a qualified electrician.”
Everitt says that if your home gets too hot, you should try to “escape” for a while to the closest cooler place like a community centre, a shopping mall or a hotel that has back-up power and air-conditioning, or even to a family member or friend’s house in a different part of town where the power is still on.
“In a heatwave you also need to take care of your electronics by always backing up computer data and by turning off and unplugging any devices you were using or charging when the power went out. A surge when it comes back on could cause permanent damage to a phone, laptop or TV.
“Leave one light turned on so you'll know when your power is restored and, as a longer-term solution to heatwave-induced blackouts, you should consider installing a solar power-supply system. This will provide you with eco-friendly energy and could even mean that your home becomes the cool one that family and friends head for on the hottest days.”