With 100 degree-plus temperatures forecast for the next several days, the Extreme Weather Task Force (EWTF) is asking the public for much needed fan donations to help protect the elderly, disabled and needy families in our community.
This year, EWTF agencies such as Project Bravo, Adult Protective Services (APS) and the Texas A&M Colonias programs, have distributed 199 free fans in the El Paso area.
“We desperately need more donations. Right now, have only 161 fans in stock and we’ve got a lot of requests,” said Felix Cabrera, APS Resource and External Relations Specialist. “Hot weather can be dangerous and even deadly,” said Cabrera. “The elderly and the children are most at risk. Sometimes elderly living on fixed incomes will not run their air conditioners. And some of the poorest families we see, especially in the Colonias, don’t have any A/C in their homes.”
Last year, there were four heat-related deaths in El Paso County. In 2008, El Paso had four deaths attributed to hot weather – three of the victims were elderly over the age of 70.
Besides the elderly and low income families, those most at-risk for heat-related illness include: infants under the age of one in homes without air conditioning, the ill and disabled and persons taking certain prescription medications, such as diuretics, sedatives and narcotics.
The Extreme Weather Task Force stresses use of the “Buddy System” to help save lives. 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 the elderly person to rest, stay cool and drink plenty of fluids. If there are errands to be done, the Buddy does them, or makes sure they get done.
People without air-conditioning in their homes should be encouraged (and assisted) to go to air-conditioned environments such as libraries, shopping malls and theaters.
New fan donations can be dropped off any time at all local fire stations or county sheriff sub-stations. Monetary donations are welcome can me made payable to the “Local Emergency Planning Committee.” The LEPC mailing address is 11612 Scott Simpson, El Paso, TX, 79936.
Those in need of a fan should call 211.
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 him how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar-these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps. Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library-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 90s, 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 Visit 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. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too. Try to rest often in shady areas. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).