This article is 10 years old. It was published on August 1, 2011.
Providing Relief from Extreme Heat
Imagine your surprise to hear a knock at your door, to open it and find Mayor Slay standing there. Well that is the surprise some St. Louis residents experienced during the recent heat wave. As part of the City's heat response efforts, Mayor Slay and other City officials went door-to-door, checking on residents and offering them resources to help them beat the heat.
During the middle and later part of July, St. Louis experienced extremely high temperatures, many days reaching triple digits with the added heat index. Keeping a home cool during the summer is already challenging for many people. However, for those on a fixed or limited income, and those living in older homes, the challenge is increased. Some do not have central air conditioning or even a fan to cool their house down. For those who do, they may not have the financial means to keep those systems operating. This creates a potentially deadly situation, especially for the sick and elderly. There are resources avaialble to help. This is the message Mayor Slay and others conveyed to city residents on their surprise visits.
In 1995, as a result of extreme heat in July, the St. Louis area experienced 31 heat-related deaths compared to 465 in Chicago. What made the difference between these two urban areas? Some would say it was the existence of plans like the one used locally called Operation Weather Survival (OWS). OWS is a network of public and private organizations that collaborate, coordinate resources, and assist in educating the public to reduce the risks of illness and death during extreme hot and cold weather. The network does not provide services. The participating organizations provide and administer services and programs. Network members include the City of St. Louis Health and Fire departments as well as Ameren Missouri and Laclede Gas.
"During periods of extreme heat it's not business as usual, we must change our behavior. We have to take precautions and constantly check on each others' physical and environmental conditions," said Health Director Pamela Rice Walker. Some things we can all do to reduce the risks of heat related illnesses are:
- Limit your time outside in the heat, especially during the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. when the sun is at its peak
- Ensure air conditioners and central air systems are working properly
- Make regular visits to elderly and disabled family members and neighbors and check on the temperatures in their homes
- Encourage those family members and neighbors who do not have air conditioning to seek refuge in an air-conditioned location or a nearby cooling center
- Encourage family members and neighbors to turn on air conditioners if they have them
- Educate family members and neighbors on the signs of symptoms of heat-related illnesses and encourage them to seek medical assistance if needed
- Never leave a child or pet in a parked vehicle, even for a single minute. Despite open windows vehicles can heat up rather quickly
The Health Department is encouraging residents to call the United Way at 1-800-427-4626 or at 211 from a land line if they need assistance. Residents should contact Cool Down St. Louis at www.cooldownstlouis.org or( 314) 241-7668 if they need air conditioners or assistance with utility bills.
Department of Health