“We all walk out there. It’s very, very, very hot . . . Yes, we go to extremes in Chicago. And that’s why people love Chicago.”

It was July of 1995, a time of record heat in Chicago, and Mayor Richard M. Daley was urging people not “blow it out of proportion.”

As it happened, Chicago suffered 739 heat-related deaths that summer, though perhaps none of us — the mayor was hardly alone — understood how deadly a run of extremely hot weather can be.


And so we urge caution each summer when the heat spikes hits again, as it doing this week. Check in on relatives, friends and neighbors, especially if they are elderly or live alone. The abiding lesson of the great heat wave of 1995 is that there is no substitute — no army of cops or social workers — for people watching out for each other.

We must watch out for ourselves as well.

There are three stages of heat emergencies: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Those most susceptible are children, the elderly, those drinking alcohol and those who are overweight.

Heat stroke can lead to coma or death, and those affected must be rushed to the emergency room. Symptoms include confusion, fainting, seizures, excessive sweating and an abnormally high body temperature.

In Chicago, six cooling centers are open to the public. On evenings and weekends, some city-operated facilities, including libraries, park facilities and police stations also serve as cooling centers. To find one nearest you, call 311. At that number you can also request a check on someone and register for the city’s Extreme Weather Notification System.

Avoid prolonged exposure to heat and never leave anyone, including pets, in a hot car – even for a few minutes. Consuming alcohol, coffee or soda can increase your risk of experiencing a heat emergency, so stick to water and natural juices.