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Facing hot weather without air conditioning can amount to more than embarrassing sweat patterns on your clothes; it can lead to heat strokes, dehydration and even death. Around late July or early August, we typically turn on the nightly news and hear about precautions that we should take to avoid these things. But how often do we take them seriously? Considering the annual number heat related deaths, not often enough. If you’ve heard about what you should do to prepare for a heat wave but you let it go in one ear and out the other, the following precautions are some of the most essential steps in preparing for the hottest days of summer.

Step one is to have a heating and cooling company perform a maintenance check on your central air system before the end of May. If you have window units instead of central air, it’s a good idea to have a HVAC company check their freon levels. You should also have technicians check the air filters in your air system or window units, as dirty filters can decrease air flow. If you’re wondering about the best company, going with a company that employs NATE certified technicians is the safest bet.

In the event that your cooling system should somehow malfunction, it’s a good idea buy two or three large floor fans around the same time that you have your air system serviced. It’s also a good idea to know where your area’s public “cool centers” are located. In the event that you can’t locate any cool centers, shopping malls and libraries make great cool center by default.

As a final preparation, learn the signs of heat illness, which include disorientation, hallucinations, confusion, irritability, confusion, trouble breathing, muscle cramps, general weakness dizziness, fainting and cold, clammy skin or hot, dry skin. If you or someone that you know has been exposed to the heat and begins exhibiting any of these signs, it’s best to call 911.