Several Berkshire communities will open cooling centers this weekend to help residents beat the "feels like" heat of 100 degrees.
Pittsfield and Adams will keep their senior centers open Friday through Sunday. Pittsfield residents will also be able to cool off at the Berkshire Athenaeum Friday and Saturday; Friday at The Christian Center; and Friday and Sunday at The Salvation Army.
North Adams expects to finalize its list of cooling centers Friday morning, but city officials said Thursday that the senior center and library will at least be available during regular business hours.
In Great Barrington, the Berkshire South Regional Community Center off Stockbridge Road will be available as a cooling center Friday through Sunday, during regular hours, according to town officials.
With forecasters predicting that the heat index will reach or break the century mark in the region over the next three days, the medical community urges people of all ages to avoid strenuous outdoor activity, as it could lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
"We are built to handle one day of extreme heat. Get into day two and day three and that's when we struggle. Stay inside as much as possible," said Dr. Michael McHugh, chairman of emergency medicine at Berkshire Medical Center.
McHugh says that staying in an air-conditioned building and drinking plenty of water are tops on his list of how best to endure this kind of weather.
"I think water alone is enough," he said. "Stay away from caffeine and alcohol, as they dehydrate you."
Local and state health officials want people to take seriously the extreme heat, saying it can be deadly.
"Young children, elderly people, and those who are sick or overweight are more at risk of heat-related illness. Individuals with chronic illness should also be particularly cautious to avoid heat stress," Pittsfield Public Health Director Gina Armstrong said in a statement.
State officials are encouraging residents to conduct wellness checks on others during the potential heat wave, which is defined as three consecutive days of highs of at least 90 degrees.
"Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle. Please check on your family, friends, or neighbors to make sure they are safe during the extreme heat," Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips said in a statement Thursday.
Health and safety officials say 911 should be called if someone is suffering from heatstroke — it presents itself as high fever, nausea, headache and a fast, strong pulse.
Until medical help arrives, move the person to a cooler place and lower their temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Do not give the victim anything to drink.
Those showing signs of heat exhaustion — heavy sweating, cool, clammy skin and a fast but weak pulse — should be moved to a cool place. Their clothes should be loosened and they can be dampened with cool cloths and allowed to sip water. Should symptoms worsen, call 911 for emergency medical help.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.