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Emergencies & Your Health

Planning ahead to protect ourselves in a disaster, including people who are medically vulnerable.

Extreme Weather, Severe Storms, Climate Emergencies

More extreme weather, driven by climate changes, causes more frequent and more violent storms, drought, and flooding.

We all need to be prepared for the resulting natural and man-made disasters; usually both at the same time. For example, both extreme heat and extreme cold can take down an electrical power grid, as happened recently. So preparing for climate emergencies is a lot like preparing for all the other emergency situations covered in this resource guide, sometimes several at once. (Please see the sections on planning for more details.)

Extreme weather

Extreme Heat

Dehydrated surface

Steadily rising temperatures in recent years mean that it's more work to stay comfortably cool - and we're at more risk from overheating.

Unfortunately, many homes and other buildings were not built with current high temperatures in mind. If no air conditioning is available in a heat wave, visit one of the county's cooling centers in local libraries and other public buildings to chill.

Learn the signs of the different heat diseases (heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke) and of dehydration, so you can take quick action to avoid serious trouble.

Be aware that the signs of heat illness or dehydration may look different in older adults, or in young children.


Medications & OTC products can make you more sensitive to heat or sunlight. 

Many commonly-used medications make their users more vulnerable to dehydration, sunburn, headaches, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  These links name several that do. If unsure, look up each medication in MedlinePlus to see if it lists sun sensitivity, heat sensitivity, dehydration, or light sensitivity as a possible side effect or precaution. If so, take extra precautions when temperatures are high, or when exposed to sunlight.


As the U.S. continues to break records with extreme heat and longer heatwaves, we need to work on more systemic long-term solutions for people and animals. Until real changes are made to global warming, here are some stop-gap ways to manage:

Unusual Cold

Ice storm

While the Bay Area's weather is usually temperate, a cold snap during a power outage, or while unhoused, can still be dangerous. For the location of warming centers, shelters, and hotlines, see:

Cold temperatures, snow, or sleet can be regular winter features in other areas of California, especially at higher elevations. If you're traveling into the mountains during winter months, be prepared! Pay attention to winter storm warnings for your destination, and to road closures.

The U.S. Weather Service recommends keeping an emergency supply kit for your car that include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks. Pay attention to the gas gauge, also.

Severe Storms

In a Severe Weather (Storm, Wind, Lightening) Warning 

The U.S. Weather Service advises:

  • Know what to do before, during, and after severe weather.
  • Create a communications plan with your family before severe weather hits.
  • Have emergency supplies in place at home, at work, and in the car.
  • Listen to local officials.
  • Check your insurance policies to ensure you have enough coverage.
  • Evacuate if advised by local authorities.

The text on this page is copyright PlaneTree Health Library, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Linked contents are the responsibility of their creators or copyright holders.