Beat the heat: Steps to protect students from heat stress
As summer temperatures heat up in California just ahead of the start of the school year and athletic practices, school districts and county offices of education are encouraged to be mindful of steps to prevent illness from heat stress. The Centers for Disease Control has found that heat stress during sports practice or competition is the leading cause of death or disability among high school athletes in the United States.
Heat stress occurs when exercise increases the body’s temperature and the body is not able to cool itself as needed. California has the second highest number of student athletes nationally at about 800,000, and it is important that school leaders implement strategies and protocols to help reduce the risk of heat illness.

“School leaders need to ask the right questions of their staff to ensure that school sites, administrators and coaches are educated and trained in signs, symptoms and treatment, and that they have Emergency Action Plans in place,” said California Interscholastic Federation Executive Director Roger Blake.

The CIF and its sports medicine advisory committee recommend several safety protocols including heat illness prevention training for coaches and school staff, and having Emergency Action Plans, known as EAPs, in place. California Education Code requires schools to update and submit a comprehensive safety plan, which must include procedures for dealing with emergencies, to their district or county office of education for approval by March 1 of each year. An EAP includes guidelines on responding to emergency incidents during school hours, and it is recommended the plan also include before- and after-school emergency procedures.

  • Heat illness during sports practice is the leading cause of death or disability among high school athletes in the U.S.
  • Emergency Action Plans are critical for schools to have in place
  • AB 2800 requires California coaches to complete heat illness prevention training

School leaders are also urged to educate their communities about EAPs and related staff responsibilities and expectations. Other useful steps to prevent heat illness include having ice tubs available to cool down athletes, gradually scaling up athletic practices to adjust to excessive heat, providing plenty of drinking water and having certified athletic trainers available for practices and competitions. Although California does not require athletic trainer certification, certified athletic trainers can be essential to treating and identifying heat stress and other injuries such as head trauma.

Under Assembly Bill 2800 (Chu, D-San Jose), which was signed into law on June 1 of this year, school staff and coaches are required to complete a course on minimizing heat illness risks. Through the National Federation of State High Schools, the CIF offers a free online course for coaches and other school staff that fulfills this requirement. The free course can be found at

CSBA, in collaboration with CIF, has published a new governance brief on heat illness prevention that includes an overview of the issues, best practices and resources.

“Heat illness is a preventable tragedy that can destroy a communities’ confidence in school leadership,” CIF’s Blake said. “It is imperative that school leaders ensure that those adults working directly with our students have the knowledge and ability to minimize risks and reduce injuries for the students they serve.”

To learn more, view the governance brief “Preventing Catastrophic Heat Illness” at