This article was recently published in the Professional Private Investigator’s Association of Colorado (PPIAC) newsletter and in the August 2013 edition of PI Magazine. I am very honored that both of these fine publication so graciously gave the space for my article. I would like now to offer up this advise for all Private Investigators out there suffering through the summer heat.
Keeping your Cool. Tips for the HOT P.I.
When the heat is on, there are not many things more miserable than sitting inside of a hot car while pulling an all-day surveillance in the middle of the summer. Although there is no quick fix to dealing with the heat, there are some proven strategies that may help to get you through the day and some proven and tested pieces of equipment you might want to look into purchasing. Let’s look and see if we can find any relief for the hottest P.I.’s out there.
1) Hang a wet rag over the middle vent of the vehicle. Use your fan while the vehicle is on accessory sparingly to ensure you do not drain your battery. The air that blows through the rag will be much cooler than the air inside the car. Have a few wet rags ready to replace it with as they dry out fairly quickly. This method works well if you can direct the fan on the upper part of your body including your facial area.
2) Work barefoot. It might feel a little weird at first, especially when you have to drive, but your body lets out a lot of heat through your feet, so conducting surveillance in your vehicle barefoot (or at least with flip flops) will help keep you cool.
3) Keep your hair wet. As the moisture evaporates from your hair, your scalp will cool off, bringing down the temperature of your body.
4) Add some ice. A 10 pound block of ice on the floorboard under a vent will help cool things down. This hack is derived from what residents in Arizona actually used for car air-conditioning in the 40’s and 50’s! To prevent leakage of water in your car, rest the ice block in a plastic pan or a baking tin. Opening a window a little will help with airflow.
5) Freeze water bottles to use as ice packs. Wrap the frozen bottle in a towel and put it behind your neck. Once it thaws, drink the cold water in it to cool off.
6) Plan your surveillance times to coincide with cooler parts of the day. Early morning is often the coolest time of the day, and many times allow you to find a good surveillance point long before the neighbors all wake up. If you’re not on a fixed schedule, plan on doing as much surveillance as possible before the heat becomes unbearable later in the day. Try to avoid surveillance during mid-afternoon, to avoid the worst heat of the day. The hotter it gets the more likely it is your subject / target will remain inside during the hottest periods as well, leaving you to suffer out in the heat.
7) Look for shady spots to setup surveillance. While not always possible in many cases it can make your day. The shade not only provides for a much cooler experience it also affords you some needed cover inside the car as well.
8) Roll down the windows when possible. This sounds obvious, and it should be, but sometimes it isn’t possible without compromising the surveillance. Rolling down a window, even partially, can help keep airflow going through the vehicle.
9) If you have a fan operated fresh air vent, open it, turn on the fan, and open a rear window enough to draw a draft through your automobile.
10) Opening the car’s sun roof or sliding back window, if equipped, will draw a lot of fresh air, even when you’re sitting still if there is even a slight breeze.
11) Install window tinting on the windows. Chances are, if you are doing surveillance, you already have this but in case you don’t this can make a huge difference with the inside temperature of your vehicle. This can offer a substantial reduction in direct sunlight coming into your car, and provides much needed cover for you while on surveillance. (Check with state and local regulations as to the what is allowed and not allowed)
12) Purchase a 12 Volt fan with a clip and hang it from the visor. There are a number of inexpensive 12 Volt fans available at auto parts stores and discount retailers. They clip on the sun visor or rear view mirror, or stand on the dashboard, and plug into a cigarette lighter plug to move air. Fans like these take considerable less voltage thus lowering the draw on your vehicles battery.
13) Dress down day is every day in June. July and August! If you have a long surveillance to work, try to dress in shorts and a tee-shirt. I would also recommend having a spare shirt to change into in case you need to go on foot surveillance inside a store, or elsewhere. Keep a towel handy to cover your legs should you get in a position where the sun is shining directly on your bare legs or arms for a long period of time.
14) Make custom window coverings. You can use double sided black foam core from any hobby or craft store to make a cutout for each of your side windows that can be quickly inserted and then taken out as needed. This creates a dark interior combined with a sunshield in the windshield and creates great cover for your surveillance.
15) Consider the purchase of a MightyKool system. These systems utilize water, ice and water & ice to help keep you cool. They are personal space coolers, not to be confused with swamp coolers. While they have similarities to swamp coolers the technology is different. They are designed to cool down what they are blowing on, which should be you. I use a basic Swampy model that utilizes only water that blows on my upper torso and head keeping me cool during the hottest parts of the day. This size model accommodates my smaller car, uses about 1-2 galons of water a day, and gets the job done. There are other investigators that utilize the larger ice or ice/water systems that do a more efficient job at cooling the air however at the expense of needed ice and space for a cooler inside the vehicle. If interested you can learn more about these at http://www.mightykool.com .
Now, lets look at some of the keys to keeping cool. When and where you park your vehicle and how you shield it makes a large difference as to how hot it gets as the day warms up. Always use a windshield shade when possible to keep heat from coming through the windshield. You may need to keep 3-4 inches of it open on one side so you have a visual on your target but the remainder of the windshield can be covered for protection from the sun as well providing you hidden cover. Always try to park the car undercover or under the shade of trees, walls, etc. The more you can give your car a head start on staying cool before it gets hot, the longer it’ll take to heat up as the day pass by.
Use the vent blower on the car heater on the coolest setting to help move some air. The least bit of air movement will help keep you cooler. There are also many low-cost 12 volt fans designed just for use inside a vehicle.
If you are using any method where water and air mix, such as a MightyKool, you will need to have some ventilation in the vehicle. Without proper ventilation the vehicle will become a hot, wet miserable place to be. These methods are also better in dryer climates verses humid areas. With proper ventilation you will keep cooler, and protected from the heat.
*** While it might seem tempting, do not use dry ice in a vehicle. It displaces oxygen as it sublimates, and could cause suffocation in enclosed spaces (which a car definitely is).
I hope these tips help you out while out there in the heat. Feel free to pass them on to others that may benefit as well. Many of these tips can be used in every day travel when an air conditioner isn’t available. Stay cool, and be careful out there.
~ John L. Morris
A Northern Colorado, licensed and insured, Greeley Private Investigator
Call today for your 100% FREE Private Investigator Consultation (970) 673-5719
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