NEW CASTLE - To improve coordination of resources available to Delawareans who are vulnerable to the effects of heat extremes, a coalition of government and nonprofit agencies is working together to promote the availability of those services through Delaware 2-1-1.
Delaware residents who are vulnerable to extreme heat and are in need of services or supports - including seniors, people with disabilities and individuals with underlying medical conditions - are encouraged to call Delaware 2-1-1. Starting on Sunday, high temperatures are expected to be in the high 80s to low 90s all week.
The average temperature in Delaware has increased over the last 110-115 years, and the number of days with temperatures over 95 degrees and over 100 degrees is also increasing. That puts people who are vulnerable to those increased temperatures at greater risk for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, severe respiratory conditions and other heat-related illnesses.
"With the increasing frequency and duration of heat waves in Delaware, it's important that we connect vulnerable residents with critical services," Gov. Jack Markell said. "By using Delaware 2-1-1, government agencies at all levels - along with nonprofit organizations - can coordinate their efforts to better serve people in need."
Among the services that Delaware 2-1-1 can refer eligible callers to:
- Department of Health and Social Services' (DHSS) Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which consists of Fuel Assistance, Crisis Assistance and the Summer Cooling Assistance Program. All programs are administered by DHSS' Division of State Service Centers. Fuel Assistance and Crisis Assistance are managed on a contractual basis through Catholic Charities, Inc.; the Summer Cooling Assistance Program is managed by First State Community Action Agency in Kent and Sussex counties and by Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware in New Castle County.
- Delaware Emergency Management Agency's (DEMA) protocols for extreme heat.
- City of Wilmington's Free Electric Fan Program for seniors.
- During extended periods of excessive heat, Sussex County will direct vulnerable residents to public libraries and/or other county facilities.
"As a state, we need to be aware of the danger of extended heat waves," said Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh, medical director of DHSS' Division of Public Health. "We ask that you have a plan if you lose power or are without air-conditioning and that you check on vulnerable family members and neighbors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat ranks among the top weather-related killers in the United States. Unfortunately, we already have confirmed the first heat-related death in Delaware this year."
A 56-year-old Sussex County man, who died June 18, was this year's first confirmed heat-related death in Delaware. In 2013, there were three confirmed heat-related deaths.
Tips to prevent heat illness:
- Do not leave a child alone in a parked car, even for a minute. Call 911 if you see a child left unattended in a vehicle. Check in on seniors and individuals with disabilities to make sure they are OK. Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks containing sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. (Check with a doctor before increasing fluid intake if you have epilepsy, heart, kidney or liver disease, or if you are on a fluid-restrictive diet. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.) Visit www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/water.html for more information.
- Stay indoors on the lowest floor possible to avoid the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella. Use sunscreen. Sunburn slows the skin's ability to cool itself, and has been linked to skin cancer. Avoid extreme temperature changes. Be careful trying to cool down too quickly; a cold shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can lead to hypothermia, particularly for the elderly and children. In these cases, cool water is better than ice cold water.
Heed the following heat danger warning signs and take suggested actions:
- Heat cramps occur in the muscles of the limbs or abdomen occurring during or after physical activity in high heat. Sweating results in loss of fluids and salts that cause muscle cramps. Address heat cramps by resting in a cool place and drinking plenty of water.
- Heat exhaustion is more severe, occurring when a person is overheated along with reduced or unbalanced intake of fluids. Symptoms include dehydration, fatigue, weakness, clammy skin, headache, nausea and/or vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability and fainting. Take these simple steps to reduce heat exhaustion: Move the person indoors or into shade. Loosen or remove the person's clothing. Encourage the heat exhaustion victim to eat and drink. Get the person to a cool shower or bath. Call your doctor for further advice.
- Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer cool itself, and can be a life-threatening event. Prompt medical treatment is required. Symptoms include: flushed, hot and dry skin with no sweating; high body temperature (above 103 F, taken orally); severe, throbbing headache; weakness, dizziness, or confusion; sluggishness or fatigue; decreased responsiveness; and loss of consciousness. If heat stroke occurs, take these steps: Call 9-1-1 immediately. This is a medical emergency. Get the heat stroke victim indoors or into shade. Get the person into a cool shower or bath, or wipe them down with continually soaked cool washcloths while awaiting emergency responders.
For more info, visit the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html.