Photo Courtesy of the National Weather Service
Let’s face it, a Kevlar vest and duty belt can be a little uncomfortable in the summer, especially in cities with high humidity.
Moreover, heat stress and heat stroke are very real risks, especially for officers working outdoors. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms: profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat and breathing, confusion, dizziness, and nausea. And if you notice them in yourself or others, get help immediately.
Some departments allow officers to wear seasonal uniforms, sometimes with short pants. Others allow individual choices in uniform fabric, for which the best choice is cotton or another lightweight, breathable material.
But there are some easy ways to reduce your chances of overheating no matter what you’re wearing. Though these reminders are mostly common sense, they bear repeating.
10 Tips for Keeping Cool
- Keep a cooler in your patrol car.
- Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in your cooler for a quick refreshing spray to your face.
- Freeze plastic bottles of water at home and take them with you when you report for duty. As the ice melts, you'll have a supply of cold water.
- Stay hydrated—drink at least 8 ounces of water or energy or sports drinks every hour. You can flavor your water with a little juice or flavor drops.
- Chill out with cold sports drinks, which contain electrolytes (carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium), which help replace the minerals you lose when you sweat. Afterward, have an additional eight ounces of water to completely rehydrate.
- Go for a decaffeinated coffee or tea break instead of your regular cop of joe. Caffeine promotes dehydration.
- Take a pass on sugary drinks, too, which can cause you to lose more body fluids, and very cold drinks, which can cause stomach cramps.
- Avoid heavy meals and eat cool foods, such as salads; fresh fruit or vegetables; and low-fat, cool dairy products such as yogurts. Watermelons, cucumbers, and oranges are especially healthy in hot weather, as they are made almost entirely of fluids.
- Invest in a small dashboard fan, which can circulate the air in a patrol car and increase the effectiveness of your vehicle’s air conditioning. If you’re working inside, a small desk fan can do the same for office AC. Some battery-operated fans can also be attached to water bottles to spray a cooling mist.
- Last, breathe deep and think cool thoughts. Visualizing your vacation—at the beach, in the mountains, at home in your easy chair in front of the baseball game, or wherever you relax—can reduce stress and make even 90-degree heat and humidity more bearable.
Sr. Technical Writer
Sources for more information:
Making Officer Safety and Wellness Priority One: A Guide to Educational Campaigns
Health, Safety, and Wellness Program Case Studies in Law Enforcement
Building and Sustaining an Officer Wellness Program: Lessons from the San Diego Police Department