Outdoor workers sweat through summer's swelter

Posted August 12, 2010 6:14 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2010 6:44 p.m. EDT

— For roofers, emergency personnel and others who must work outside the air-conditioned comfort of a cubicle, the weather is the ultimate boss on hot August afternoons.

The heat sets the schedule, and those who don't respect it can end up on a stretcher.

Jeffrey Hammerstein was among members of the Wake County Emergency Management Service working through an emergency training drill Thursday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Firefighters, paramedics and National Guard troops sweated through the two-hour drill.

"It's definitely hot enough," Hammerstein said. "We can stand more. We're prepared, so if it gets hot, we'll roll with it."

Compared to the heat of battling a fire, Capt. Todd Lewis of Morrisville Fire Department said, the exercise was almost a breeze.

Firefighters got to wear T-shirts. When they are bulked up in uniform, Lewis said, "We just work short durations at a time, and we make sure we have a rehab unit set up in place."

Those who know the heat are careful to take breaks and stay hydrated.

"A lot of water, a lot of Gatorade," said Larry Walls, a roofer.

Walls tries to avoid working during the hottest part of the day.

"About 1 or 2 o'clock, we're trying to be off the roof," he said. He and his crews from Walls Roofing in Raleigh begin their work day as early as 5:30 a.m., he said, "if the neighbors don't mind."

His work in the morning hours left him with blisters on his feet, right through his shoes.

"I've learned that thick-soled tennis shoes work very well," he said.

"If it's 100 degrees out here, and you've got a heat index of 105, 110, it's probably 130, 140 degrees up on the roof," he said.