County Council puts Heat Plan in place
Resources can help vulnerable people cope when a heat wave strikes
While the 2014 summer forecast is calling for fewer scorching heat waves, Delaware County Council wants residents to know that the county’s Heat Plan is in place. Both the Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) and Office of Adult Services offer assistance to elderly and vulnerable residents throughout the summer months.
County Council alerts residents to take extra precautions during a heat wave, and to check in with elderly and disabled family members and neighbors who are at greater risk for heat-related illnesses.
The National Weather Service describes a heat wave as three or more days when the temperature is 90 degrees or higher. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting El Nino conditions this summer, which could signal more moderate summer temperatures and fewer damaging hurricanes.
The main thing is for people to be prepared, said County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle.
The County Office of Services of the Aging (COSA) has a Heat Plan for the county that includes a Heat Information Line, extended hours at Senior Centers, and educational information on heat safety tips, dehydration, and safe use of fans.
The Heat Information Line at (610) 872-1558 is a recorded 24-hour phone service that typically runs June 1 through Sept. 30, providing residents with heat advisory updates and information. People who need additional assistance can contact a COSA staff member by calling the Information and Assistance service at (610) 490-1300.
“When the weather service issues an excessive heat warning, it’s important for our elderly and vulnerable residents to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses,” said Chairman McGarrigle. “People who are 65 and older are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and we ask that residents check on their elderly family members and neighbors.”
McGarrigle said the Delaware County Heat Plan calls for senior centers and adult day care centers to extend their hours, to offer water and non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day, and to reinforce with service-provider drivers to check on consumers.
COSA has a limited number of fans available for senior residents in need of assistance.
Care managers are asked to identify “at risk” consumers who are homebound, living alone or have a prior history of inadequate cooling in their home.
When the elderly and chronically ill don’t have protection from the heat, such as air-conditioning and plenty of fluids, they can develop serious health effects.
Delaware County Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetian said it is particularly important for seniors and those with health problems to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Common symptoms of dehydration are headache, dry skin, light-headedness, nausea and fast heartbeat.
On any day when temperatures reach 90 degrees, it is especially important for young children and older adults, as well as people who have heart and breathing problems or are on certain medications, to pay close attention to what they are doing and how they feel during hot and humid weather.
COSA offers the following heat safety tips: drink plenty of fluids (in consultation with your physician regarding medication and fluids); wear lightweight clothing; stay indoors or seek relief at a senior center, mall or friend’s house who has air-conditioning; and avoid strenuous activity. People should limit alcohol or beverages containing caffeine.
The Delaware County Department of Human Services also expands its outreach to vulnerable populations. Chris Seibert, Division Coordinator with the Division of Adult and Family Services, said staff expands it outreach to homeless and vulnerable adults during a heat wave and implements overflow bed procedures at the shelters.