With a string of 105 degree-plus days in the forecast for the El Paso area, the Extreme Weather Task Force (EWTF) is asking the community to be proactive to help keep elderly and needy families from heat-related illness and possible death.
According to the National Weather Service, “a stagnant weather pattern with strong high pressure aloft will result in excessive heat across the region occurring through the weekend and the first part of next week. Afternoon high temperatures will be between 105 and 110 degrees with overnight lows of 75 to 83 degrees each day.”
As a result of the forecast, EWTF is joining with Office of Emergency Management to push a community-wide, proactive safety plan which includes:
- A focus on the vulnerable individuals during this extreme heat wave. We are asking the community to check on the elderly, persons with disabilities, and small infant children using the Buddy System (see below for more information.)
- If vulnerable individuals do not have air conditioning in the home, we ask the community to call 2-1-1 to register for a free electric box fan. If the individual is elderly with no air conditioning in the home, please call Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-800-252-5400. APS may be able to assist with a fan or fixing an existing air conditioner unit.
- EWTF will be collaborating with many community partners (Office of Emergency Management, 2-1-1, Dept. of Health, El Paso Fire Dept., Project Bravo, Area Agency on Aging, X Cleaning Professionals, United Way, Adult Protective Services and others) to ensure vulnerable individuals are safe and educate the community on the Buddy System.
“Collaboration with our community partners will be key in getting the community educated and safe,” said Grace Ortiz, APS Community Engagement Specialist and EWTF Chair.
“Also, due to COVID-19 risks and restrictions, many of El Paso’s cool places like our senior community centers aren’t open right now. We are asking the community to keep the vulnerable at home and not to take them out due to risk of heat exposure. The Buddy System will be the primary means for keeping vulnerable safe.”
New fan donations can be dropped off any time at local fire stations. Those in need of a fan who meet EWTF criteria should call 2-1-1.
The distribution of fans will be managed differently due to COVID-19. The EWTF will have a designated pick up point and a corresponding license plate number is required to ensure the correct person picking the fan.
To help save lives, the EWTF stresses use of the “Buddy System.” This simply involves having a trusted relative, friend or neighbor check in daily with an elderly or disabled person during a heat wave.
A Buddy encourages an at-risk individual to stay cool by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, to eat well, drink plenty of fluids and cool their home safely. If there are errands to be done, the Buddy does them, or makes sure they get done.
Those most at-risk for heat stroke include: elderly people with inadequate food, clothing or cooling; babies sleeping in hot bedrooms; children left unattended; adults under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs; mentally ill individuals; people who remain outdoors for long periods (the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.)
Corporate and monetary donations are welcome payable to the APS Silver Star Board. The APS Silver Star Board mailing address is 401 E. Franklin Ave, Suite 350, Attention Grace Ortiz, and El Paso, Texas 79901
TIPS FOR PREVENTING HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS
- Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic) regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar – these cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Stay indoors, and if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
- Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90’s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
o Infants and young children
o People aged 65 or older
o People who have a mental illness
o Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
- Contact adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
IF YOU MUST BE OUT IN THE HEAT:
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
- Try to rest often in shady areas.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and by putting on a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher – the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.