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Baltimore City Launches 2014 Code Red Heat Alert Season
BALTIMORE, MD (June 17, 2014) – As temperatures begin to rise and with hot and humid conditions expected this week with a heat index approaching 100 degrees, Baltimore City health officials are announcing the 2014 Code Red Heat Alert initiative and reminding citizens of precautions to ensure their safety during hot weather.
In 2013, there were six Code Red declarations issued and two hyperthermia-related heat deaths, and in 2012, there were 17 Code Red declarations issued and 13 hyperthermia-related heat deaths.
A Code Red Heat Alert will be issued by the Health Commissioner when the forecasted heat index is equal to or greater than 105˚F. The heat index measures air temperature and relative humidity to indicate how hot it feels to an individual outside.
When a Code Red Heat Alert is declared, staff from several city agencies including the Health Department, Office of Aging and Care Services, Mayor’s Office of Human Services, and Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management will coordinate the opening of cooling centers around the city to offer air-conditioned space and water for residents without access to cool air in their homes. Cooling centers will generally be open at five Community Action Center locations from 9 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekends and at six senior centers from 9 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays.
“Having a unified and coordinated agency response to potentially dangerous temperatures gives us the ability to best protect the residents of, and visitors to, Baltimore and to save lives,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“Heat-related hospitalizations and deaths are highly preventable,” added Dr. Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, Interim Health Commissioner for Baltimore City. “During hot summer days, it’s important to stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay in touch with your neighbors, especially seniors and medically frail individuals who live alone or without air conditioning.”
Information on declared Code Red days will be shared on the Health Department website, www.baltimorehealth.org (URL changing on July 9th to www.health.baltimorecity.gov); the BCHD Situation Update blog at https://bchdsitupdate.wordpress.com/, Health Department social media (Twitter – @Bmore_Healthy and Facebook – www.facebook.com/BaltimoreHealth), the Baltimore City 311 line and with local news media.
Heat waves are silent killers. Heat is the leading weather-related killer according to the National Weather Service. Each year, the heat kills more people than hurricanes and other weather-related phenomena combined.
The effects of heat are cumulative, meaning a person can become ill after several days of above average temperatures. Older adults and the medically frail are at an increased risk for developing heat-related illness. During heat waves, there is the potentialfor increased mortality from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and stroke.
During periods of extreme heat, the Baltimore City Health Department recommends that city residents:
- Drink plenty of water or juice
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Wipe skin with cool water as needed
- Reduce outside activities
- Wear light-weight and light-colored clothing
- Stay inside during the hottest time of day (11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
- Seek relief from the heat in air-conditioned locations
- Check on older, sick, or frail people in your community who may need help responding to the heat
- Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for short periods of time
- Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
High body temperature with cool and clammy skin
Hot, dry, flushed skin
Rapid or slowed heart beat
Individuals should seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
City residents who want information on cooling centers on declared Code Red days can call 311. 911 should be called for individuals having a heat related medical emergency or who are experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.