COLUMBUS - So far in 2008, severe weather in Ohio has been surprisingly and disturbingly common and widespread. The Ohio Department of Aging encourages all Ohioans to consider how extreme heat and severe weather can affect their older friends and loved ones, and those with disabilities this summer and help them prepare for and recover from severe weather events.
“We’ve had tornadoes in January, a blizzard in March, floods in April, a heat wave in May and frequent severe storms and tornadoes in June,” said Barbara E. Riley, director of the department. “With weather patterns so unpredictable and unexpected, having a plan has never been more important, regardless of whether you are an individual, a family, an organization, a business or a city council. We ask that all Ohioans include their older neighbors and people with disabilities in those plans.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die from heat waves each year than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. Older individuals are particularly vulnerable to the effects of heat stress. This is due in part to changes in their bodies’ natural cooling mechanisms as they age, but also can be complicated by chronic health conditions, certain medications and isolation.
Air conditioning is one of the best protections against extreme heat. Even just a few hours a day in air conditioning can prevent heat stroke and other adverse conditions. Unfortunately, many older Ohioans don’t have access to - or can’t afford - air conditioning at home. Depending on where you live, assistance may be available to access free air conditioners or financial assistance paying for the energy to run them. Contact your area agency on aging by calling toll-free 1-866-243-5678 to learn about assistance available in your community.
Many senior centers offer designated “cooling centers” if the mercury stays high for an extended period of time. You can also escape the heat by visiting movie theaters, libraries, shopping malls and other air-conditioned public places.
Other ways to beat the heat include taking a cool shower or bath; drinking lots of fluids; avoiding beverages with caffeine, alcohol and lots of sugar; knowing if your medications increase your susceptibility to heat and wearing lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Check in on at-risk individuals at least twice a day and look for signs of heat-related illness (e.g., hot, dry skin, confusion, hallucinations and aggression).
Severe weather events, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes and floods can isolate individuals and restrict their access to critical services, utilities and medical care. State of Ohio agencies responsible for disability and aging services and Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities Network, in conjunction with the Ohio Legal Rights Service, have launched the Emergency Management Be Prepared Kit, a publication and companion Web site containing checklists that will guide individuals on the documents they need to copy and keep and the supplies they should have on hand at all times, in case of emergency.
The Ohio Department of Aging is a proud member of the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness, a collaboration of public organizations, state agencies and media dedicated to educating the public on severe weather safety and preparedness. To learn more about the committee and severe summer weather, visit weathersafety.ohio.gov .