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Met Office issues red alert for extreme heat in area including Hertfordshire and Essex

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Advice has been issued to schools and care homes by Hertfordshire County Council as for the first time ever the Met Office issued a red alert for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday (July 18-19).

Temperatures in excess of 35C (95F) are predicted and the authority's director of public health, Professor Jim McManus, said he was aware of modelling that suggested a high of 40C (104F) was possible as the heatwave continues.

The highest temperature recorded in the UK is 38.7C in Cambridge in July 2019.

Met Office Red alert area includes Bishop's Stortford (58007100)
Met Office Red alert area includes Bishop's Stortford (58007100)

The Met Office has extended an amber extreme heat warning for Sunday, which highlights likely adverse health effects, not just for those most vulnerable to extreme heat.

On Friday morning (July 15) its forecasters said the East of England, East Midlands, London and South East, North West, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber were subject to a red alert and an "exceptional hot spell" on Monday and Tuesday "leading to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure". The danger area includes Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Stansted.

This means:

- Population-wide adverse health effects experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life. Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.

- Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required.

- High risk of failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localised loss of power and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services.

- Significantly more people visiting coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents.

- Delays on roads and road closures, along with delays and cancellations to rail and air travel, with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays.

Professor Jim McManus (58007102)
Professor Jim McManus (58007102)

A UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) level 3 heat health alert has been in place since July 11. There are no thresholds for moving to level 4 - a national emergency. Instead, that decision is taken by the Government.

Herts County Council is implementing its Heat Health Plan, issuing advice to organisations such as schools, early years providers, care homes and outdoor workplaces.

There is no maximum temperature for workers, although health and safety regulations state the temperature inside workplace buildings must be "reasonable".

Prof McManus said: "We have issued additional guidance for schools and for people working outside like school crossing patrols and staff at recycling centres.

People using a sun screen. (58007135)
People using a sun screen. (58007135)

Sand and powdered granite supplies are on standby to treat melting road surfaces, and special provision is being made to keep fire engines and ambulances on the road and free from heat-related faults.

Prof McManus said it was important to take the rising temperatures seriously and alter daily routines. While scorching conditions may be commonplace on the Continent, he said: "We are not used to these kinds of temperatures in terms of the way we do things."

He advised residents to "basically think like a European".

Hot weather (58007132)
Hot weather (58007132)

The very young and those over 75 are most vulnerable to heat stress, but other health dangers include effects on some medications for mental health and cardiac conditions.

Prof McManus said: "We don't want a huge number of people turning up at accident and emergency with heat stroke and heat exhaustion, cardiac cases or significant amounts of sunburn."

National Highways is advising motorists and their passengers to be well prepared for any journeys this weekend and early next week – including taking drinking water.

It advises drivers to carry out basic checks to make sure vehicles are roadworthy. Things to consider are:

  • Tyres - ensure pressures are suitable for the load and check the condition of tyres, including the spare. Look out for cuts or wear across the whole tyre, including sidewall.
  • Engine oil - check oil levels regularly and top up if needed. Take your car back to the garage if you’re topping up more than usual.
  • Water - always keep your screenwash topped up with a good ratio of water and screenwash to maximise the cleaning efficiency so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen easily.
  • Lights - if your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. In addition, your vehicle may fail its MoT.
  • Fuel - make sure you have enough fuel to get to your destination. Running out of fuel can put you, your family and other road users at risk unnecessarily.

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