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  • Keeping Pets Safe During the Dog Days of Summer

    Jack Russell dog sitting in front of a domestic electric fan - dog days

    As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to think about dogs, cats, and other pets, and how to prepare them for the summer’s heat.

    A pet outside in hot weather is like a person outside in hot weather — only in a fur coat and barefoot, said Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah.

    So start preparing with grooming and skin care. Don’t shave a dog or cat; fur helps prevent sunburn. But do get shedding fur off and provide pet sunblock (available online and at pet stores).

    Avoid walking with pets on asphalt — its heat can burn the pads of pets’ feet.

    Just as people need more water during the summer, so do pets. And just as most people don’t enjoy drinking hot water, neither do pets, Shepherd said.

    Change the water in pet bowls throughout the day so it doesn’t become too warm. Consider adding ice to the water. If you’re taking a pet outside for a longer time, bring a collapsible water bowl.

    Change the animal’s diet too.

    Freeze-dried Dog food - dog daysWet pet food can spoil faster in summer’s heat, so use more dry food. Freeze foods pets normally eat, or make treats like frozen meat or peanut butter popsicles. Emergency Essentials sells freeze-dried pet food that can work as a warm-weather treat.

    Avoid freezing hazardous foods like onion, grapes, avocados, and chocolate. The Humane Society has a list of foods to avoid.

    Learn signs of heat sickness in pets. Since dogs and cats don’t sweat, they can easily overheat, Shepherd said.

    The easiest sign of heat distress is panting. That’s how many animals cool themselves. Shepherd suggested pet owners also watch for lethargy and disinterest in normal activities, excessive and ropy salivation, brick red gums or a dark mouth, fast pulse, and vomiting or diarrhea.

    The fastest way to cool a pet is with cool — not cold — water. The American Red Cross says a garden hose is the easiest cooling tool.

    If that’s all too hard to remember, the Red Cross offers a pet first aid app.

    Pets are most likely to overheat in a car, whether the windows are open or not. Pet owners should never leave animals in a vehicle on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Shepherd recalled an experiment in which the Humane Society of Utah director sat in a car with the windows cracked open for 20 minutes on a 91-degree day. The temperature in the car hit more than 120 degrees.

    “For a pet, it would have been fatal,” Shepherd said.

    She said the best place for a pet on a hot day is inside in a cool room.

    “If you can’t take a pet into [wherever you’re going], just leave them at home,” she said.

    Finally, prepare pets to spend time outside by making sure they are tagged with microchips and keep microchip information updated. Shelters look for microchips when they are brought lost or runaway pets. The Humane Society of Utah offers free microchip clinics throughout the year, Shepherd said, and many other places offer microchip insertion for $20 to $30.

    Talk to animal experts about other ways to prepare pets for summer. Reptiles will often hide under rocks or in shade; hedgehogs can be especially particular about temperatures, Shepherd said. It boils (pardon the pun) down to this: treat pets as we’d like to be treated in the heat.

    “If it’s hot for us, of course it’s hot for them,” she said.


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  • Tips to Beat the Summer Heat

    On June 2, this screen grab of a Gilbert, Ariz. forecast was posted on Facebook.


    Gilbert Forcast - summer heat


    Now that’s a heat wave.

    Even if this forecast isn’t accurate, much of the western U.S. is likely to see some high temperatures this month, according to the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Heat can be deadly. Fortunately, it killed only 45 people last summer – far fewer than the 10-year average of 110 people per year, according to the National Weather Service.

    Some people are more sensitive to prolonged heat than others. They include children under 4 years old adults over 65, overweight people, and people who are ill or on some types of medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Even healthy people can get a heat-related illness if they work or exercise outside for a longer period.

    A little preparation can prevent heat-related illness.

    It starts with having enough to drink. If you’re exercising, drink two to four glasses per hour. Even if you’re not doing much, drink more fluids when it’s hot, the CDC advises. That doesn’t include liquids with alcohol, caffeine, or sugar – those can cause more fluid loss.

    Young man sitting in the park and drinking water from the bottle. - summer heat Beat the summer heat.

    If possible, stay indoors and in air conditioning. If not, spend time in the shade. Electric fans are helpful until the temperature is in the high 90s. If your location doesn’t have air conditioning, find a place that does, like a library, and visit.

    “Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat,” a CDC bulletin said.

    Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you’re outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Sunburn makes you more susceptible to heat illness.

    Look out for others.  Check on at-risk adults at least twice a day and watch young children more frequently. Look out for signs of heat exhaustion.

    Humans get rid of heat by sweating, pumping blood closer to the skin and panting. When a body can’t get rid of enough heat, or has a chemical imbalance from sweating too much, it goes into heat exhaustion.

    The CDC lists signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating, weakness, pale and clammy skin, rapid heartbeat, cramps, nausea, or fainting.

    To treat heat exhaustion, get the patient out of the heat, have them lie down and loosen their clothing, and try to cool them off with wet cloths and fans. Have them sip water. If they don’t stop vomiting, or if symptoms haven’t improved in 15 minutes, emergency medical help may be necessary because heat exhaustion can become heat stroke.

    Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 103 degrees according to the CDC. Other symptoms include hot, red, dry, or moist skin, as well as having a rapid, strong pulse, fainting, nausea, seizures, and impaired mental state. Heat stroke can kill. Immediately call 911, move the person to a cooler place and try cooling strategies like wetting the patient or applying ice packs. Don’t give liquids to a person with heat stroke.

    Even if it won’t reach 412 degrees outside, summer heat can pack a punch. Be prepared with plenty of water, the right clothes and a cool place to go. Make this a fun, safe summer.


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  • Storing Food Safely in the Summer Heat

    Author Carol Lynn Pearson once imagined a disastrous food storage location in her book, “The Model Mormon Mother’s Notebook.”

    “Crib mattress sprouting!” she wrote. “Find other places to store wheat.”

    Actually, below a crib might not be the worst place to put long-term food storage, if it’s done right. Now that the summer heat is here, it’s time to consider if your long-term food storage is in a safe location.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends storing nonperishable food in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.

    “Never put (canned goods) above or beside the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or basement, or any place exposed to high or low temperature extremes,” the USDA advised.

    summer heatIt’s especially important to store food correctly during the summer for several reasons. First, high temperature can cause food to break down faster. A general rule of thumb for chemical reactions is that reactions double their rate for each temperature increase of 10 degrees Celsius. There’s too much variability for that rule of thumb to apply constantly. But, heat will cause food in storage to break down faster. This breakdown changes food’s appearance and flavor, and can cause nutrient loss.

    In addition, many types of canned foods contain bacteria called thermophiles, which prefer high temperatures, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They don’t grow under normal storage conditions, but do and can cause spoiling at high temperatures (50-55°C). That’s 122-131°F, but the USDA says temperatures above 100°F can damage canned goods. The USDA recommends keeping food at temperatures below 85 °F, and most experts prefer below 70 °F.

    “The risk of spoilage jumps sharply as storage temperatures rise. In fact, canned goods designed for use in the tropics are specially manufactured,” according to a USDA fact sheet.

    Exposure to sunlight can cause rapid temperature changes, as anyone knows who’s touched a metal slide during the summer. These rapid transitions are also bad for food storage. Also, light can cause nutrient loss and a change in appearance for food in glass containers, according to Jan Rasmussen from the University of Minnesota extension service.

    Frozen cans can have more acute problems. As liquid inside a can freezes, it expands. That can cause the can to bulge, creating microscopic holes large enough for bacteria to enter. Cans are unsafe if they are frozen, thawed, and refrozen, according to the USDA. Frozen cans can, however, safely be defrosted in the refrigerator.

    “If the canned food is still frozen, let the intact can thaw in the refrigerator before opening. If the product doesn't look and/or smell normal, throw it out. Do not taste it,” the USDA fact sheet advised.

    Shelves - summer heatAlso important: keep food storage off the floor. First, it reduces the likelihood of pests getting into the home and food. Second, cement floors can be damp. Cans and metal lids on glass jars are usually made of steel and can rust on a damp surface. Rust puts tiny holes in cans, which can allow bacteria to enter. Discard heavily rusted cans or those with rust inside. Rust that a paper towel can wipe away is not serious, according to the USDA.

    With canned goods, watch for these warning signs: loose or bulging lids on jars, dented, swollen or leaking cans, or food that smells bad or looks cloudy when it shouldn’t.

    “If the cans look ok, they are safe to use,” the USDA fact sheet said.

    According to the USDA fact sheet, canned foods are safe indefinitely if not exposed to temperatures below freezing or above 90 °F. High-acid canned food like tomatoes and some fruit will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low-acid canned food like meat and vegetables will for 2 to 5 years.

    Keep food storage in a climate-controlled area away from windows and moisture (we recommend storing your food at temperatures less than 70 °F). Put dry goods in plastic or glass containers or cans to keep rodents and bugs out. Put newer food storage items behind older ones.

    And maybe avoid crib mattresses.


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