By Amy Campbell
Living in Arizona, you learn to just deal with the excessive heat. I’m not saying you like it, you just learn to cope with it. Just last weekend, my mom said, “You move from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned store.”
I’m much more sensitive to the extreme heat as an adult than I was as a child. I can vividly recall walking the mile to my aunt’s house with my cousins so we could find respite in her pool. The journey across concrete sidewalks and asphalt was well worth it once we jumped into the cool-blue water. Looking back, it’s amazing we didn’t suffer from heat stress on those journeys. Of course, I’m also now more aware of the havoc hot days can have on your body and brain.
As a self-storage operator, you likely spend most of your day indoors. However, there will be times when you need to be outside … in the sun. It could be during your daily walk-through, while showing a unit to a tenant or handling facility maintenance. Likewise, your tenants are also exposed to the heat when accessing their unit. That’s why it’s critical to be cognizant about heat stress for yourself as well as your customers.
There are four heat-related illnesses. From the least to most critical they include: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which could result in death. It’s critical that you recognize the symptoms of heat stress. A person suffering from it may not even be aware he’s in trouble. This could be you, a co-worker or a tenant, so it’s important to understand the signs and react accordingly. This chart from the U.S. Department of Labor highlights the symptoms and first-aid measures for each of the four heat-related illnesses. The signs vary, from muscle spasms, dizziness and headaches, to nausea and vomiting, confusion, and fainting.
While you may think these illnesses only happen to someone who’s been outdoors for a long duration, that’s simply not the case. It could happen to anyone who’s been exposed to hot or humid weather, even for a short period. And it doesn’t just happen to people living in “hot” states like Arizona and Texas.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can protect yourself from heat-related illnesses. First, try to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Schedule your walk-throughs in the early morning and evening hours. If you must be outside, try to stay in the shade. This could mean carrying an umbrella (even though it may look silly), or erecting a canopy over a work area. You can also apply a cold compress to your face and neck. Be sure to schedule breaks in the shade so your body has time to cool down. If you’re not used to being outdoors, acclimate yourself by gradually building up your exposure time.
Second, stay hydrated throughout the day. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. You should drink at least a cup of water every 20 minutes. You can also sip sports drinks that have electrolytes, but be wary of the sweeteners in them. Stay away from caffeinated drinks, and opt for a “cool” lunch such as a sandwich or salad, rather than a spicy burrito or chili.
You can also help your tenants stay hydrated by offering cold water bottles when they visit the property. If you see a new tenant moving in during the middle of the day, stop by and let him know he can visit your air-conditioned office to rest.
If you do need to show the property, take your golf cart, even if the unit isn’t too far. Add a battery-operated fan to your transportation and keep it parked in the shade so it’s cool to the touch when you hop in. Be sure to grab a few water bottles for you and your prospective tenant. While looking at a unit, if the conversation begins to run long, politely suggest to the prospect that you return to the office and continue the discussion. A simple, “Man, is it hot out here,” will go a long way!
Few would traipse around a self-storage facility barefoot and without a warm jacket during the snow season. The same goes for the summer months. Business doesn’t stop just because it’s 115 degrees outside. Rather, be prepared and follow some simple protocols to ensure your safety and that of your tenants.
How do you protect yourself and tenants from heat-related illnesses? Add a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk.