Temperatures across the southwestern U.S. have hit record-breaking highs this month, but Delta teams are doing everything they can to beat the heat and keep employees safe.
The southwest is known for scorching summers, but so far this one stands out, said Tom Wettig, Delta's Phoenix station manager. Cities from southern California to New Mexico have seen temperatures approaching 120 degrees.
"Temperatures in the low 110s are manageable and expected here in Phoenix. Each summer, there might be one or two days at 118 degrees – the temperature at which regional jets legally can't take off," he explained. "But this week, we've already had three days of 118-degree heat, and it's only the second day of summer."
Wettig said the station could be looking at more aircraft-grounding temperatures this weekend. In the meantime, Delta employees are still working hard to keep the busy summer operation running. One of the key ways they're doing that is by staying hydrated before, during and after shifts.
"We gave all below- and above-wing employees insulated water bottles so they can carry cold water with them while working," Wettig said. "Each gate has a portable water cooler so employees can fill up when needed, and break rooms have coolers with electrolyte popsicles and Gatorade." On many hot summer days, a golf cart with a water cooler makes the rounds as well.
"It might sound strange but some guys swear by wearing long sleeves, but if you're here, you can understand why they do it – it's incredible how hot the sun feels against your skin," he said. "We're also monitoring work schedules to make sure employees have enough time to come in and cool off."
Most important, Wettig said, is ensuring that employees are looking out for one another and being aware of the signs of heat exhaustion: confusion, fatigue, profuse sweating and pale skin.
"I've been in Phoenix for four summers, and we've never had anyone come down with a serious heat-related illness," he said. "I think that's because everyone is so good about checking on one another."