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The summer of 1980 was one of the hottest summers on record. From June the mid-September, temperatures soared into the high 90's, and 100-degree marks were not uncommon. By summer's end, 157 Kansas City residents had died as a direct result of the heat and countless people had been treated in hospitals and emergency departments.

The City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department monitors the heat index during the summer and alerts community partners and the media when the heat poses a threat to the health of Kansas City, Mo.

Who is most affected and why?
Information gathered since 1980 has identified the groups most vulnerable to the effects of excessive heat, as well as the behavioral and environmental precautions essential to preventing heat-related illness and death. These include:

  • Infants under one year of age
  • Elderly members of the community
  • Those who are ill or disabled
  • Persons taking drugs or medications, including diuretics, sedatives and narcotics
  • The economically disadvantaged.

Anyone can suffer a heat illness or death, but members of these categories are often hit the hardest by heat (your risk is based on who you are, especially if you are in one of the categories above, what you are doing, and what you are putting in your body). The reason for this is because of the following most common causes of heat death and illness:

  • Refusal to leave home to go to a cool shelter
  • Keeping windows closed for fear of being robbed
  • Not using air conditioner because of high energy costs
  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Furnace effect from fans.

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Furnace effect
The furnace effect is when someone is no longer sweating because they are too hot and the air is too humid, and a fan is being used. That fan is not cooling the air or the person, just pushing more hot air on the person. In effect, the person is being broiled.
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