5 tips to survive extreme heat, from someone who knows
July 12th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

5 tips to survive extreme heat, from someone who knows

The number of national heat advisories is rising almost as fast as the temperature.  So we asked Ray Byrne, owner of America Roofing LLC, in Glendale, Arizona, who works outside in sometimes scorching weather,  for his tips on how a heat pro deals with extreme temperatures.

Byrne - who has been working in the roofing business for nearly 25 years - said the average temperature in Glendale during the summer is about 115 degrees.

"Basically at 100 degrees, it's not too bad," he said. "At about 110 [degrees], you start feeling it, and at 120 [degrees], you start losing productivity."

The company holds monthly safety meetings on heatstroke and exhaustion to remind its staff of smart protocol.

Here are some strategies Byrne and his roofing employees use to stay cool. Adapt them to fit your needs whether you're outside all day or working in your garden for the afternoon.

1. Hydration is key

Hydrating at frequent intervals is critical, rather than waiting until you’re at your maximum thirst.

“The minute you think you need a drink, stop and take the drink right then,” Byrne said. “If you don't you'll end up getting heat exhaustion.”

2. Drink cool - not cold - water

This distinction makes all the difference. Byrne described the sensation from drinking extremely cold water like getting a brain freeze from a Slurpee, except amplified.

3. Start early

If you’re working outside, make every effort to start before the sun comes up or at least before it’s reached its peak.

His company routinely starts work at about 5 a.m., and the crews try to finish up by 1 p.m., says Byrne.

4. Stay wet

If he notices that somebody has stopped sweating, Byrne recognizes it as the first sign of heat exhaustion. He’s experienced it more than once.

"No matter what that individual is doing, he needs to go sit in the shade, sip some water - just sip it, don't chug it - and just get yourself off the roof and in the shade," he said.

When working with metal roofing, Byrne said, he brings a hose up and douses himself with water to stay cool.

5. Dress strategically

Although the roofers are required to wear long sleeves, Byrne said he wears light colors to reflect the sun.

Even the color of your footwear is significant - Byrne said white shoes versus dark shoes could mean the difference between having cool feet and feeling like you have blisters.

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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Danko Ramone

    Why use a pic of person in short sleeves in an article that states long sleeves are required?

    July 12, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jackal & jester

      Giving an example of good hot weather attire.

      July 12, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • MikeD

      desert fatigues

      July 13, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Stock image.

      July 13, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Im not positive, but the guy in the picture looks nowhere near tan enough to be a veteran roofer from Arizona.

      July 19, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Steven

    Why does roofing work need to be done at the height of summer in Glendale, Arizona?

    July 12, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elly

      Because we also get crazy monsoon storms in the summer. My neighbor lost half of his roof last week because of high winds.

      July 13, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      Weather and life happen, especially weather in AZ. And when there's that much rain coming down, day after day, you can't sit around waiting for it to cool off to fix a leak.

      July 13, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
    • John B

      Asphalt shingles need warm temperatures to adhere to one another after they are installed. If installed during cold weather, they will be much more susceptible to being blown off in high winds. Also, roofing needs usually don't wait for perfect installation weather (not too hot, not too cool).

      July 13, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
  3. bruno

    roofing is required in the phoenix area because this time of year they get monsoonal rains.

    July 13, 2011 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Olllleeee

    Wherever you are in the U.S. except coastal western U.S., it´s warm to very hot.

    July 13, 2011 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John B

      Below normal temps in the northern mid-west today. Warming up this weekend though.

      July 13, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • Lakmini

      their prayers over it, it is ksoehr (legal). The taxpayers are the suckers in the downline.Trust me on this, if the Fed hadn't created that $620 billion and traded it for foreign currency, there would have been so many margin calls, that the derivative trade would have exploded. The market dropping only 777 points, was a blessing. Without the foreign central bank rescue, our market would have crashed and taken a lot of other world markets with it. If the USD was not the world's reserve currency, we wouldn't have been Argentina, we would have been Mexico during the Peso Crisis.

      November 14, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  5. S1N

    They forgot step 6. Central A/C. If you start getting heat exhaustion, get out of the sun. If your at work (outside), see if your boss will let you jump in the car/truck to cool off for a minute. If not, kindly remind him of how much a wrongful death suit would cost the company.

    July 13, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LRoy

      I once read somewhere that you should not use major appliances (washer-dryer, dishwasher) during the day. Use them if possible very early or very late in the day.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
  6. Loopman

    Another good suggestion would be to make sure that you hydrate yourself with WATER- not Gatorade or soda or even KoolAid. Water is what your body needs. If you are sweating very profusely, you might also want to start taking salt tablets, just one or two, before you begin your day of working in the heat. The salt will help replenish that which you will definitely lose during the day. I've lived in the desert, the jungle and in several hot climates and these tips have helped me.

    July 13, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Yeah, salt...like what's in Gatorade except it's more balanced between sodium and potassium in Gatorade. Drink a small amount of that Gatorade, but drink lots of cool water, as well.

      July 13, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse |
    • LRoy

      Ah, no koolaid? How about chocolate milk? Yeah, I know water...even for the cats.

      July 22, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
  7. Sorely Frickey

    Really, really new and creative approaches - to someone living above the Arctic Circle, maybe.

    July 13, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      And yet, people suffer heat injuries all the time because they, like you, already know this stuff and so can't possibly be in any danger.

      If roofers who work in this conditions every day can deal with a monthly reminder, you can deal with spending 2 minutes reading an article you intentionally chose to read.

      July 13, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
  8. cbd123

    "If he notices somebody has stopped sweating, Byrne recognizes first sign of heat exhaustion. He’s experienced more than once."

    Hey CNN, I think it's time for you to take some English as a Second Language courses...

    July 13, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Ted

    Our guys who wear hard hats like the GelCool fitted cold packs.

    July 13, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Trav0

    I did two deployments to Iraq and after doing patrols in full gear in 120 degree heat I'd like to think I know a thing or two about keeping your body functioning in extreme heat. This should be fairly obvious to those with common sense but one thing I'd like to point out is that hydration is a continuous process. If you're going to be out in the heat you should be drinking water the night before, don't wait it's already hot. And second, take it easy with the energy drinks. One of the main reasons I saw for a Soldier going down due to heat was them choosing to chug a 32 oz. Monster energy drink instead of water that morning and then they wonder why they're getting an IV stuck in their arm a few hours later.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • megs777

      Thank you for your service 🙂

      July 19, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
  11. cyber

    I was a tar mopper and not only hydration but salt tablets helped alot.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Keith RN

    I think Byrne has his signs and symptoms confused. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. One of the signs and sympotoms of heat stroke is the ABSENCE of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin.
    Individuals with heat exhaustion often sweat profusely, but as the body becomes dehydrated the sweating may decrease.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. ABB123

    For the love of God, I understand an occasional typo, but can someone please fix item 4? The first few sentences are a monstrous mess!

    If he notices somebody has stopped sweating, Byrne recognizes < first sign of heat exhaustion. He’s experienced < more than once.

    "No matter what that individual is going...

    July 13, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. todd

    use Hydro-Stop

    July 13, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Josie

    It comes down to this, drink water slowly through-out the day. Stay in the shade if you can, if not dress for the weather. I've lived in all types of enviroments. More people in pheonix will drink water because it's actually provided for them (a new one for me!) but areas that are in missouri and really humid don't...yet you need the water just as much there as you do anywhere else! We are going between the 90's and 100's right now, typical summer weather and I walk everywhere!

    July 13, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Generation Gap

    If you've ever had a hand in replacing a roof, you would find easy to respect someone that does this for a living. Some of the hardest work I've ever performed.

    July 13, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Nisroc

    1. True
    2. If you think so
    3. BS, I doubt you get up on someone roof, lift the shingles, clean the roof then start firing nails in at 5am. Do you really think home owner will allow you to do that.
    4. Very Talented, staying wet is a nice idea if you like water sweat dripping in your eyes while you try to work.
    5. Reflective loose clothing (white), jeans, a towel, ball cap, shades with sun screen. Does not have to be long sleeve really

    I would hate to work for you on the roof ads you make it more a night mare job that a job. Take 4 gallons of water filled with ice to help keep it cool. Take a drink every chance you can or when thirsty. Wear loose white clothing that allows wind or air to very your body. Wear shades to protect eyes, ball can backwards to keep swear out of them. The job burn it sun up til sun down. The hard you push the quicker you body will get used to it. I have done it for 3 years, some days in 40C and no wind and never have I felt exhausted other than a hard days work.

    July 14, 2011 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dodger

      Start at 5:00 AM? – absolutely they do – very common but primarily on new construction.

      July 19, 2011 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
    • LRoy

      You raised a very good point. Where the blazes is the mention that sunscreen is an absolute MUST?!

      July 22, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  18. patrick j

    It's not just that you are working in the heat on the roof. Most roofs are dark colored shingles and they are very hot to the touch. So if the temperature on the ground is 90 degrees. it can easily be 130 or 140 on the roof. I agree that CONSTANT hydration is one of the most important things. Take a break every time you finish a square and get off the roof! If the homeowner will agree, consider alternatives in the middle of summer. Our company once roofed a large plantation home in south Louisiana by working at night with portable floodlights. That was basically the only way we could do it in those conditions. I would also like to mention that as bad a roofing can be in summer, it is still not as bad as a central heat & air repair job in an attic in the middle of July. That is a good way to die.

    July 15, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. aughra

    Yes, Nisroc, construction starts in Phoenix at 4-5am, especially after Memorial Day. Owners are notified and approve; those who don't get to wait a few months. Many road crews working summertime from 9 pm to 5 am, with portable generators and floodlights. MacDonalds starts serving breakfast at 4am. And people offer water in greeting. It's an Arizona thing.

    July 19, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. bruce

    To those who have never roofed on a hot day, you have no clue I have worked in a 120 degree kitchen and its not even remotely close to a roof in 90 much less 100 degree weather.
    I have heard stories of people from desert storm and iraq be the only ones that survived the first day through in 100 degree weather and they admit its much hotter than the desert.
    The key is freequent breaks. If you think you are to hot get of immediately run cool NOT COLD water over your wrists and arms for a few min followed by your legs if possible and your head. If you can saturate your entire body after this but not at first you will gasp for breath and maybe pass out.
    Drink gatorade its important water helps for a little while but you need gatorade as well.
    Have healthy snacks and eat a healthy meal befor you start. Granola bars bananas etc will help you a lot.
    Having said that I'm off to get on a roof again today in 100 degree weather.

    Be carefull and watch the people around you as well

    July 21, 2011 at 06:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LRoy

      I find a luke warm bath cools better. Also peanut bars (like Payday) is great for energy. Not sure if it's the protein in the peanuts or the salt or both. Works for me.

      July 22, 2011 at 11:03 | Report abuse |
  21. roofing phoenix

    I was extremely pleased to discover this page. I wanted to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and I have you book marked to see new things in your blog.

    July 4, 2012 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. http://www.acbyj.com/

    These are great tips! Another way to stay cool during summer is having a good functioning AC which keeps our customers cool. http://www.acbyj.com/ac-replacement/

    December 18, 2014 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Cale

    Generally very helpful tips I just have to argue the stay wet one. Our heat index in the summer generally reaches your 100-110 zone and being on a roof for 10 minutes can have you soaked and feeling like you just jumped out of a pool With 100% Humidity and generally 30-45 min between breezes you have to stay dry. Your sweat cant evaporate in the humidity once the temperature passes the dew point. You can overheat and begin to suffer from heat exhaustion in a very short time span. There are two kinds of heat and both need to be handled differently. Another note on hydration: in our climate drinking water all day can be extremely dangerous due to how much you sweat. You have to add salt tablets or a good sports drink to your deluge of water or you can pass out or get very ill. Food for thought. Southwest Florida by the way.

    August 29, 2015 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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