When shooting exteriors in the exteme heat (or even normal heat), it's important to arm yourself with the knowledge of how to work safely throughout the day. Script supervisor and set medic, Lesli Lytle, has written the comprehensive piece below to help protect all crew members on hot days.
Heat related injuries and illnesses are much more dangerous than we realize. Excessive heat compromises all bodily systems, the brain being the most important.
Climate change has us working in conditions we may have never had to face before. Since a lot of our situations leave us to the elements, we need to defend ourselves from what the weather can do to us.
Our set medics are trained to deal with heat emergencies. The first thing they tell us is to remove the patient from the heat source and begin cool down measures. Putting a person in the shade drastically reduces the impact of high temperatures. Cooling sheets, or towels, ice packs, etc., applied to the neck, armpits, and even groin help to quickly displace heat and cool the body fast.
Our bodies cool down by evaporation of sweat. We cannot sweat if we don’t have enough water in our system. Be aware if it is hot and you are not sweating. That can be indicative of a serious medical situation.
Obviously hydration is our first defense. WATER. Drink lots of water. I realize that script supervisors barely have time to do their job, let alone get up to use the restroom after drinking water. But our bodies NEED to eliminate the toxins and wastes that metabolism creates. We NEED to demand accessible restrooms and a few minutes to take care of bodily functions. We often don’t want to make a scene, but we have to get over that. We have to find our voices. We have to ask for our needs to be met. So, even before water, is the Number One Rule: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Now, that being said, drink water.
Be aware of how you are feeling. Dehydration causes headaches, muscle cramps, confusion and a loss of concentration. Then it can cause death. If you feel achy and disoriented, confused or experience cramps (stomach or muscle), listen to what your body is telling you. These are indicators that something is wrong.
Most medics on set carry hydration packets that can be added to water, to enhance our body’s need for electrolytes and natural salts lost via sweat and elimination. If needed, carry your own.
Pedialyte, which is used to replace lost fluids in infants, makes a powdered version of electrolyte replacement. Drinking straight liquid Pedialyte is an alternative, although to some people it’s sickly sweet. Again, do not feel bad about asking for help. The medics actually LIKE being needed, and they have trained for this.
Steer clear of beverages containing caﬀeine, as it is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates. We are trying to hydrate the body, to dilute toxins. If production is not doing its job to take your needs into consideration, there are many ways we can take care of ourselves.
Ask for a courtesy shade or pop up or a cooling fan to create a safe space. Production has an obligation to keep each crew member safe so that we can do our best work. If production won’t provide this safety equipment, you may always call the Local 871 Business Rep, Patric Abaravich, at (818)509-7871 ext. 105 or the IA Safety Hotline (844)422-9273. If you bring your own chair, invest in a clip-on umbrella to provide shade.
Many medics also create neck wraps to help people cool down. This is usually a towel wrap dipped in cool water and Sea Breeze or camphor. The wrap goes around the neck. This action helps cool down the carotid artery, which directly carries blood to and from the brain. The eﬀect of a neck wrap is instantaneously invigorating. You may also apply this cool towel to pulse points: insides of your wrists, elbows, backs of your knees. Your neck is the most important.
However, if you feel that having a wet compress on you is bad for your notes or computer, the same action can be accomplished with an ice pack applied at the base of the neck, using face wipes, or utilizing a fan. There are neck wrap fans online for about $20.00. They are rechargeable via a USB cable and simply sits around your neck, creating an upwind of air that cools the neck, face and head. Even a simple squirt from a spray bottle of water helps or Evian water in a can.
Ryobi and Arctic Zone both make fans that can either be plugged into a stinger or powered with a rechargeable battery. Having a fan helps with the evaporation process, which is our body’s natural cooling means. Any portable fan creates air movement, which is a good thing.
As a medic, I carry all of the above and even spray deodorant. I am thrilled when my actions help a fellow crew member.
In a nutshell:
- Drink water
- Add electrolytes to your water for maximum hydration eﬀorts and flavor
- Encourage evaporation with a fan
- Neck wraps to cool down your brain
- Shade your workspace
- Snack on high water foods (watermelon, cucumbers, berries, etc.)
- Limit caﬀeine intake
- Limit salty foods
- SAY SOMETHING if you feel bad, or see someone else who looks as though they might be in trouble
We have a responsibility for set safety. That is not limited to proper equipment usage, it also means keeping our literal selves safe. We cannot take care of others if we do not take care of ourselves first.