While most of us are fully ready to embrace the cooler weather of fall, it would seem summer has different plans. Three schools in Easton county, Pennsylvania, were forced to close early due to the extreme temperatures.
“The intensity of the heat over the past several days caused some the temperatures in some areas of the building to soar,” said Easton Superintendent John Reinhart. “Technicians are working to discover the causes for the lack of cool air in those areas.”
Easton Area High School, which let out at the early time of 9:40 a.m. had been in the midst of a multi-year project focused on replacing and upgrading its HVAC systems; Phase I had ended just before the school year began, but the units that weren’t replaced needed heavy repairs which weren’t able to be completed before the heat warning was issued by the National Weather Service. HVAC units require regular maintenance (like changing the air filter every three months) so it’s possible that lack of care contributed to their breakdown — or maybe they were just exceptionally old.
With temperatures reaching heat indexes of around 104, the schools — which included two elementary schools — couldn’t take the risk of harming the students. There are three heat-related syndromes (heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke) that can cause severe damage to those unable to cool their bodies down, especially young children who haven’t fully developed sweat glands; it’s one of the reasons leaving a child in a car on a hot day is so dangerous. Since the superintendent admitted that the elementary schools involved, Cheston and Palmer, didn’t have air-conditioned rooms, sending everyone home was the smartest and safest choice.
It’s unsurprising that the heat carried on well into September considering the summer we’ve had. The National Weather Service issued multiple heat advisories, which is defined as a period of excessively hot and humid weather that creates “a situation in which there is an increased risk for health-related issues.”
We’d seen and heard of those risks and their consequences all too frequently this summer, namely in the province of Quebec. By July 6, 33 people had already died from heat-related problems. Of the 18 deaths that occurred in Montreal, none of the victims had had air conditioning in their homes. Elderly people are as susceptible to heat illnesses as children are, especially if they have certain health problems already established.
Hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees and above, and it can cause significant brain and organ damage, even failure. There is simply no justification for not purchasing an air conditioner in times of extreme heat when not doing so poses such a great risk. It is an investment that pays for itself in comfort and safety; better yet, having a professional perform routine maintenance can make the unit last nearly 40% longer.