Drought - long-term lack of sufficient rainfall. It has no specific start, it slowly evolves and that is why there is not much to personally do for preparation. But, communities and state governments can and should prepare by putting water usage guidelines in place and enforcing water restrictions during stretches of low rainfall.
On a personal level, the general conservation of water use is the best thing to do. Plan drought tolerant landscaping, take shorter showers, fill the dishwasher and clothes washer completely before running, water yards minimally and at the most efficient times of day, wash your car efficiently.
A heat wave is just an extended period of exceptionally high temperature for a location. It's a simple thing and easy to ignore, not like a tornado or flood. That is why so many people are caught unprepared when a heat wave creeps up on them. About 175 people die from summer heat each year in the USA. In 1980's big U.S. heat wave, over 1200 people died. In 1995, Chicago lost 739 people in just a few days. In 2003, Europe's heat wave killed over 35,000 people. Annually in the U.S., heat kills more people than floods, earthquakes, lightning, tornados, and hurricanes combined.
Extreme heat poses a risk in many different ways. High heat coupled with high humitidy causes the human body to overheat since its natural evaporation of water through sweating is slowed down. High heat in a dry climate is much more tolerable because sweat evaporation helps cool the body. Other environmental conditions such as stagnant air, smog, and general poor air quality further increase the risk of a heat-related illness. Personal conditions such as your body structure, physical shape, age, ancestory, and normal environment determine your risk of being effected by high temperatures - someone from Houston can handle higher temperature and humidity than someone from Calgary for example.
Cities are the worst place to be during a heat wave. Reasons for higher risk from heat are:
Heat disasters will most likely become more and more common over time as the average temperature around the world rises. In the past 25 years, that average temperature has risen 1 degree Fahrenheit. Expanding cities, expanding populations, reduction of green cover all are contributing to the increased risk and we will see more heat related deaths in the coming years.
As your body succumbs to the heat hazard, and your body temperature rises, the following symptoms will occur:
People that are in poor physical shape, the elderly, small children, or are not used to hot environments are most susceptible to heat-related illness. You should evaluate your risks and prepare accordingly. The early signs of heat exhaustion will continue to progress to heat stroke if the victim does not recognize the problem and get treatment. Treatment may be simply retiring to a cool place, resting, and drinking water but that simple treatment is crucial.
Before a Heat Wave
The most important planning step to take is to recognize the truth that high temperature events will occur and they are dangerous. You don't need a survival kit or special plans, but there are some preparations you can make to help minimize your exposure.
During a Heat Wave
It should be obvious that the most important thing to do is stay cool. And, that's not in the 'cool dude' meaning. That's literally keep your body temperature down by:
A good trick to help keep your house cool during a heat wave is to cut pieces of cardboard the size of each window. Wrap the cardboard in aluminum foil and then set it in place against the window. This will reflect heat back outside the house and is a cheap bit of help.
Hot Cars on Hot Days
If you have ever left a person or a pet in a car, you should read this.
General Motors of Canada funded a study and determined that a car parked in the sun on a 95F degree day would have an inside temperature of over 120F within 20 minutes. And, in 40 minutes it would be over 150F. This was a small car that had the air conditioning going before stopping.
Heatstroke occurs when a person's core temperature reaches 105F. The smaller the person, the more quickly the heat can raise their temperature, causing death. That means leaving your child in a carseat for even less than 20 minutes may kill the child - even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes, heatstroke is a possibility.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that there will be no problem on cooler days. Cars are insulated ovens and even on moderately warm days can have an inside temperature 50 degrees or more higher than the outside in just a half hour.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that leaving the windows opened an inch will help. Studies have shown that the temperature still soars and reaches deadly levels at nearly the same rate.
An average of 30 children a year die in the U.S. trapped in their carseats sitting and waiting for mom or dad. That has to be one of the saddest statistics ever. Love your kid enough to bring him with you from the car or leave another adult with him. And, love your pet enough to leave it home if you can't leave someone with it in the car.