NOS News••an average
Washington bureau editor
Washington bureau editor
It is very hot on the world famous strip in Las Vegas. With temperatures over 45 degrees, tourists crave to cool off and emergency services are called regularly. Warm days are part of the desert city, but even in Las Vegas the heat is blistering. Is the city ready for these temperatures?
Severe heat waves sweeping the southern states of the United States. More than a quarter of Americans experience extreme temperatures that pose health risks. In Oklahoma, the wind chill recently reached 52.2 degrees. The temperature has not been this high in the United States in thirty years.
Records have also been broken in Phoenix, Arizona: more than 22 days in a row have been warmer than 43 degrees. In Death Valley, California, tourists gather for a photo at a sign that reads 57 degrees.
Las Vegas is among the top three US cities with summer temperatures rising the fastest since records began in 1970. There have already been dozens of heat-related deaths across the US this year. Las Vegas has also been hit hard: The number of heat-related deaths in the city has doubled in the past five years. Scientists see the trend.
The demand for medical assistance is also increasing. “We’ve already had 50 calls this month for heat-related calls. That’s double what it was last month,” says Glenn Simpson, who works for a private ambulance service. He speaks from a crisis center about common medical emergencies. “We mainly see dehydration and heat strokes. We also see people with burns on their arms and legs after they have come into contact with very hot asphalt, for example after a fall.”
The person who knows better than anyone how hot the asphalt is in Las Vegas is Ashley King. She works on a construction site where luxury villas are being built. She’s wrapped from head to toe in sunscreen and holding a slow motion sign to keep the traffic flowing.
The king has already sinned many times. She passed out from the heat on the asphalt. Because her employer did not insure her at the time, she was on her own. “We are risking our lives to do this work and no one cares about us.”
Working conditions are difficult for people who work outdoors, such as construction workers, gardeners, and roofers. There is no national legislation in the United States that protects worker safety in the heat by requiring employers to set a tropical schedule at certain temperatures.
Adapting to the future
Researcher Nancy Brun of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada expects temperatures like these to become more common in Las Vegas in the future. She has researched how the human body can tolerate heat and whether you can physically get used to long-term exposure to high temperatures.
The study showed that people who are exposed to extreme heat more often and for a longer period of time are more likely to die from it. Brune finds that employees who work structurally in the sun often become more confident. “People think they’ve acclimatized and built up a tolerance, but the heat can take a toll on your body.”
As a result of the investigation, bills were introduced calling for a heating and safety plan for employees. According to researcher Brun, who is also a member of the city council, it is difficult to create legislation for all sectors. “The local government in Nevada has been considering a law to protect workers from heat exposure for years. This law has not yet been enacted.”
There is no urgency, as the number of heat incidents increases and summers get more extreme, she notes. Many businesses in Las Vegas have already adapted to the temperatures and are starting earlier in the day or shifting operations into the night. Because no matter how hot it is here, life goes on and work needs to be done.
For Ashley King, new heat legislation can’t come soon enough. “Every day we risk our lives here and take great risks. We are burning here and the world is on fire.”
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