Outreach efforts help save lives in heat wave
"With the number of days of extreme heat and humidity of the current heat wave, it may be more significant and impact a larger area than the deadly 1995 heat wave," AccuWeather meteorologist Jim Andrews said. Chicago was ground zero in the 1995 heat wave, he said, where the death toll was 750 over the four-day episode.
This week's heat wave has killed at least 22 people across the USA, a death toll that remains a far cry from the carnage of 1995. It begs the question why.
The main reasons appear to be more community outreach, better communication of heat warnings and danger and greater awareness, community leaders said.
In Chicago, "we want to make sure the patient comes in and immediately gets back to a bed and right to a doctor," said Kaleem Malik, the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Saint Anthony Hospital. Everything else can wait, he said, such as taking down information or checking records. The city has seen no heat-related deaths yet in this heat wave, the Chicago Tribune reported.
In Louisville, where high temperatures have been above 90 degrees for four days, with stifling humidity, no deaths have been reported this week.
Chris Poynter, spokesman for the Louisville mayor's office, credited a system called Operation White Flag, which puts a white flag outside homeless shelters to signal people they can take refuge there. "When that flag is up, that means no one can be turned away," he said.
"Even if it means sleeping on a cot on the floor, we will find a place for them. It's a place to get water, food, get hydrated, take a shower if they want to."
Nationally, the American College of Emergency Physicians "puts out press releases and alerts to really try to emphasize for people to watch out for the heat, to stay cool, and to check on elderly neighbors," said David Seaberg, president-elect of the organization.Read more....