Special to The Standard
The first step in solving a problem or preventing a problem is awareness. This was well documented by last year’s extreme heat (heat dome) and the flooding – two disasters which the governments were not prepared for, in spite of the multitude of warnings. The group most susceptible to harm and even death were seniors, as evidenced by the statistics. Some 619 people died due to heat issues and the majority were seniors over the age of 70.
Seniors are among the most vulnerable to emergencies such as extreme heat for a variety of reasons, including isolation and health issues, as evidenced by the B.C. government’s report, including analysis and a report by the coroner.
“Most of the deceased were older adults with compromised health due to multiple chronic diseases and who lived alone,” the report said. Most who died were in homes without adequate cooling systems, such as air conditioners or fans, the report added, and “more decedents lived in socially or materially deprived neighbourhoods than the general population.”
This makes it perfectly clear that we must do more for this fragile population, especially during emergencies. So where do we start? With a plan.
Here are some critical steps we can all take to prevent the problem and the tragic aftermath.
Stay aware of current and future predictions of weather conditions. Media such as newspapers, radio, television and trusted internet sources will keep you informed and help you plan. The free notification system Alertable is available for cell phones or regular phones.
Be aware of neighbours or family who may be isolated – give them a phone call or knock on the door to check on their well-being. Create a phone tree with neighbours so you can check on each other.
Prepare a ‘Beat the Heat’ kit that includes:
* Water (two or more bottles) for drinking, cooling down body, wetting clothes, and towels, etc.,
* Towels – one large that can be rolled into a pillow to elevate feet or put behind head when lying down; a few small towels that can be wet down and help cool the body,
* A spray bottle that can be filled with water,
* An old-fashioned hand fan to move the air and provide a cooling effect,
* Plastic cup and drinking straw for sipping water,
* Plastic bags to fill with water for cooling specific areas,
* Flashlight in case power goes out,
* Spare batteries,
REMEMBER: Applying cold water or ice to strategic points on the body where the veins are close to the surface — such as the wrists, neck, chest, and temples — can quickly lower the temperature of the blood running through these veins. This allows the body to feel cooler.
Planning will keep people safe in an emergency. Knowing that you have what you need will prevent a panic reaction. We all know that emergencies and disasters happen – how we plan and react is what will keep us all safe. The District of Hope now has a cooling center specifically for seniors – the Canyon Golden Agers. It’s a step in the right direction to safety. Looking out for each other, especially seniors or other vulnerable people is key. We are all in this together.