Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Baltimore City Health Department Announce Beginning of 2020 Code Red Heat Season

BALTIMORE, MD.  — Today, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the Baltimore City Health Department announced the start of Baltimore City’s Code Red Extreme Heat season, and the purchase and distribution of 1,200 air conditioning units and 25,000 fans for the City’s older adults. Mayor Young issued the following statement:

“While we continue to work to limit the spread of COVID-19, it is important to remember the threat extreme heat creates for our residents,” Mayor Young said. “I am proud of the work of the Health Department, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and our nonprofit partner, Civic Works, for partnering to deliver these much-needed air conditioning units and fans to our older adults.”

Code Red Extreme Heat is a multi-agency effort to address the impact of extreme heat on residents of Baltimore City. Throughout the summer, City agencies provide public education to residents about the effects of sustained heat on health and perform community outreach regarding energy assistance programs for older residents and other susceptible groups through Community Action Partnership Centers.

Through funding from the federal government’s CARES Act, the Health Department, DHCD, and Civic Works will distribute and install air conditioning units and fans for older residents in need. The Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success will work with the Health Department to assist residents who qualify for this program in completing energy assistance applications.

“Excessive heat is the leading weather related killer in the United States.  The effects of extreme excessive heat are exacerbated in urban areas related to population density and the heat island effect due to construction and asphalt,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Letitia Dzirasa. “Extreme heat is particularly dangerous to young children, older adults, and those with chronic medical conditions.  I encourage all residents to take the necessary steps to protect themselves as well as their families, neighbors, pets.”

"We know how important it is for older adults to be comfortable in their homes this summer", says Lauren Averella, Civic Works' Director of Elder Services. "Civic Works is looking forward to helping Baltimore's seniors stay safe at home."

A Code Red Extreme Heat Alert will be issued by the Health Commissioner when the forecasted heat index, a measure of air temperature and relative humidity that indicates how hot it feels outside, is greater than or equal to 105ºF.

During the 2020 Code Red Extreme Heat season, the City of Baltimore is making modifications to its cooling center plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff from several city agencies, including the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the Health Department, will coordinate the opening of cooling centers around the city that offer air-conditioned space and water for residents without access to cool air in their homes when it is safe to do so. All City cooling centers will modify their operations this summer to encourage social distancing.

Locations and times will be announced at the time of the Code Red Extreme Heat declaration. An updated list of City cooling centers will be posted on the Health Department’s website throughout the summer. Residents may also call 311 for more information on what cooling centers are open.

In addition, the Health Department is purchasing 25,000 fans and 1,200 window air conditioning units with $1.2 million in funding from the Federal Government’s CARES Act.

Through partnerships with the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development and Civic Works, City residents over the age of 60 who meet income requirements will have an air conditioning unit installed or a box fan made available through delivery or a distribution event which will be held at a later date. The Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success will assist with energy assistance applications when needed. To learn more, older adults can call the Health Department’s Maryland Access Point at 410-396-2273 to obtain more information.

In 2019, Baltimore City experienced above normal temperatures with several heatwaves and 16 Code Red days with 3 heat-related deaths. Officials today remind residents to take proper precautions to be ready for hot weather. 

Heat is a significant threat to public health in the United States. Heat has claimed more lives on average over the past ten years than any other severe weather event. The effects of heat are cumulative, meaning a person can become ill after several days of exposure to above average temperatures. Older adults and the medically frail are at an increased risk for developing heat-related illness. During periods of extreme heat, there is the potential for increased mortality from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, and stroke.

The Baltimore City Health Department recommends that City residents: 

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Reduce outside activities.
  • 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: confusion; nausea; light-headedness; high body temperature with cool and clammy skin; hot, dry, flushed skin; and; rapid or slowed heart beat; 
  • Seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Additional steps to prepare your home if you don’t have air conditioning:

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, or awnings.
  • Considering making temporary window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to place between windows and drapes.
  • With temperatures starting to climb, consider readying your household for summer by purchasing a window air conditioner and insulation.
  • Take a cool bath and stay hydrated when temperatures increase indoors.

City residents who want information on cooling centers on Code Red Extreme Heat Alert days can call 311. Individuals having a heat related medical emergency or who are experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke should call 911.

Information on declared Code Red Extreme Heat Alert days will be shared on the Health Department’s website, Health Department social media (Twitter: @Bmore_Healthy and Facebook: @BaltimoreHealth), the Baltimore City 311 line, and with local news media.

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