Over the weekend, nonprofits distributed 500 air conditioning units to households in the Portland area thanks to a $5 million allocation from the Legislature.
The Oregon Health Authority said it distributed the units through three community organizations: the Portland Open Bible Church, Rockwood Community Development Corp., which serves that community in unincorporated Multnomah County near Gresham, and the Portland-based Somali American Council of Oregon.
The units are among 1,000 the health authority has purchased with the legislative allocation. It plans to buy 2,000 more units this summer to distribute.
The units are going to vulnerable Oregonians, the health authority said, including older adults, homebound individuals and those with medical conditions exacerbated by extreme heat. Those on Medicare or who’ve received services in the past year through the state Department of Human Services or the health authority qualify.
The units delivered this weekend arrived just in time for a heat wave on Monday. In the Portland area, temperatures spiked at 98 degrees. In Medford, they hit 103 degrees on Monday and 104 in Ashland. Pendleton on Monday also had temperatures in the triple digits – 102 degrees.
The National Weather Service is forecasting the heat wave to last through Friday. It expects temperatures to rise above 100 degrees in Pendleton, Redmond and the Portland area on Tuesday, with Medford reaching 108 degrees.
The health authority said more heat waves will come.
“Climate change has made extreme heat events the rule, not the exception, during Oregon’s summer months,” Patrick Allen, health authority director, said in a statement. “These air conditioning units are a necessary step for building resilience to this health threat, particularly for those most vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death.”
The health authority said in a statement it will install the units in all homes, even if they’re prohibited in homeowner or renter agreements, provided they don’t pose a safety hazard.
The Legislature also allocated $7 million for the state Department of Human Services for an expansion of centers to keep people without homes or others cool, warm or breathing unpolluted air. But that effort has been slow to advance.
The state has been reminding employers they have to protect workers when temperatures hit 80 degrees, the health authority said. A heat rule, adopted in May, requires employers to provide access to shade and cool water, allow cool-down breaks and provide information about mandated protections.
Heat stroke can be deadly, with symptoms that include a high body temperature of 103 degrees; hot, red, dry or damp skin; headache; dizziness; nausea; and confusion. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; cold, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; tiredness or weakness; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; dizziness; headache; or fainting. To treat heat exhaustion, get the person to a cool place, put a wet cloth on their body or give them a cool bath and give them water to sip. The person should seek medical help if the symptoms worsen or last more than an hour.
People with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature, the health authority said. Also, some medications can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in these categories should make sure they stay hydrated and cool.
Be wary of exercising in extreme heat – or working outdoors. Those who do should pay particular attention to staying as cool and hydrated, the health authority said.
SAFETY TIPS FOR EXTREME HEAT Stay cool
Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, if possible. To find cooling centers in Oregon, call 211 or visit the 211 page. Avoid exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. Open windows, especially in the morning and evening; close shades on west-facing windows in the afternoon.Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.Wear loose-fitting clothing and protect your skin from the sun.Cool down with cool compresses, such as a towel soaked in cold water, misting and cool showers and baths.Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they heat up the body.Never leave children or pets in a parked car. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.
Regardless of your level of activity, drink plenty of fluids, even if you are not thirsty and especially when working outside.Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
Keep up to date on the temperature and heat index when planning activities. The heat index measures how hot it feels outside when factoring in humidity. Visit the National Weather Service’s Watches, Warnings or Advisories for Oregon page or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Heat & Health Tracker for the latest.
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