By David Cruz
These are dangerous conditions for even everyday activities, not to mention the strenuous and dangerous work that needs to get done every day. Not surprisingly, emergency rooms across our area are reporting an increase in heat related admissions.
“EMS crews have been picking up a lot of patients that are coming in with heat-related emergencies,” said Jersey City Medical Center EMS Medical Director Bill Wang.
The medical center has put on extra crews to meet increased demand and to give other crews some time to recuperate. For firefighters, days like today can be deadly. Firefighters responding to a house fire in Jersey City found the tough conditions making an already dangerous job even harder.
“Especially in this kind of heat, especially with all the gear you have to carry and the protective clothing you have to wear, they can easily get overheated,” said Wang, “and it could lead to heat exhaustion and passing out, so very significant issues.”
Heat like this can also put a strain on utilities with the spikes in usage stressing equipment and personnel. PSE&G crews were on the scene repairing and replacing equipment that was damaged in Jersey City when a transformer blew yesterday. Officials say that’s one of the dangers when you have a week’s worth of temperatures near 100 degrees.
“That is one of the things that can happen when you have a prolonged heat and stress on the system,” said Karen Johnson, a spokesperson for PSE&G. “We prepare for summer and this hot weather all year round. We make a lot of system improvements to make sure we can safely deliver power to our customers in the summer but unfortunately sometimes, when there is excessive stress on the system, it can cause failures such as what we had in Jersey City.”
Johnson says the utility’s power grid has been taxed by the heat, but they don’t expect to have to take any emergency measures, like rolling blackouts — just yet. On the commuting side, NJ Transit says their trains and buses have been running well, despite the heat, but they too are paying close attention to conditions.
“The danger is our catenary wires are exposed and so they can expand, and with that, its relationship with the pantograph gets a little bit dicey in regards to the pantograph being able to smoothly interact and draw power from the catenary wires,” explained Nancy Snyder, a spokesperson for NJ Transit.
Temperatures in Jersey City hit 100 degrees and it’s been a very busy day for emergency personnel. In fact, more than 40 firefighters eventually had to be treated for heat exhaustion and other injuries. Luckily, there were no other serious injuries. Officials say this heat wave should break by the weekend when temperatures will get down to the low 80s.