Heat Health Emergency declared in Philadelphia until Friday night

If you're worried about someone's health during the emergency, you can call the Corporation for Aging's Heatline at 215-765-9040.

Thursday, August 12, 2021
How Philadelphia is protecting city's most vulnerable during heat wave
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The Heat Health Emergency in Philadelphia is scheduled to end on Friday at 8 p.m., though it may be extended if the forecast changes.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia declared a Heat Health Emergency at noon Wednesday.

It is scheduled to end on Friday at 8 p.m., though it may be extended if the forecast changes.

The emergency means that the city's emergency heat programs are activated.

The city's spraygrounds and pools will be open.

Eleven libraries will open with extended hours to operate as cooling centers.

These libraries will operate with extended hours on Wednesday, August 11 through Friday, August 13. Masks are required at the library cooling centers.

  • Open until 7pm:

- Frankford Library at 4634 Frankford Avenue

- Haddington Library at 445 North 65th Street

- Lillian Marrero Library at 601 West Lehigh Avenue

- Paschalville Library at 6942 Woodland Ave

- Widener Library at 2808 West Lehigh Avenue

  • Open until 8pm:

- Blanche A. Nixon Cobbs Creek Library at 5800 Cobbs Creek Parkway

- Fox Chase Library at 501 Rhawn Street

- Joseph E. Coleman Regional Library at 68 West Chelten Avenue

- Lucien E. Blackwell Regional Library at 125 South 52nd Street

- West Oak Lane Library at 2000 East Washington Lane

- Whitman Library at 200 Snyder Avenue

The city in partnership with the Philadelphia Fire Department will have air-conditioned buses parked in several locations so people can climb aboard to get some air.

The buses will be open between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 12 and Friday, August 13. Consistent with city guidance on masking on public transit, masks are required on the PFD cooling buses.

- Germantown and West Hunting Park Avenues

- West Wyoming and Rising Sun Avenues

- South Broad Street and Snyder Avenue

RELATED: What is a heat wave? How heat waves form and temperatures climb

According to PPL, ideally, room temperatures should be kept below 89 degrees (F) during the day and 75 degrees (F) at night, and that's especially important for the most vulnerable.

NRG recommends controlling costs by following the four-by-four principle: setting your thermostat four degrees higher when you're away from home for more than four hours can help reduce electricity usage and costs.

The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's Heatline is open from noon to midnight on Wednesday. It will also be open on Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to midnight. On Friday it will open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

The number is 215-765-9040.

City health department nurses will be available to speak with callers about medical problems related to the heat.

"This could be the hottest week of the summer, so it's especially important for folks to try to get their loved ones - especially our elderly neighbors and family members - into air conditioning during the hottest part of the day. This could mean using the air in your home, your car, a business, or one of the City's cooling centers, being careful to follow COVID-19 precautions," said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

RELATED: Heat stroke or heat exhaustion: Do you know the difference?

City-run vaccine clinics may need to close early due to the heat health emergency. Call 311 or visit www.phila.gov/vaccine for updates or to reschedule your appointment.

The Department of Public Health recommends that to avoid heat-related illness, Philadelphians of all ages should:

- Use air conditioners. If necessary, go to an air-conditioned location for several hours during the hottest parts of the day. If you visit a public place with air conditioning, remember to wear a mask while inside and stay at least six feet away from anyone you don't live with.

- If using a fan, be sure to open windows to release trapped hot air.

- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water, to prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

- Never leave older people, children, or pets alone in cars.

- Those taking regular medication should consult with their physician. Some medications cause an adverse reaction in hot weather.

- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. When choosing a mask, make sure the material is also lightweight and breathable, like cotton.

- Avoid, as much as possible, working or playing in the hot sun or other hot areas, especially during the sun's peak hours of 11 a.m. through 4 p.m.

- Maintain a normal diet.

- Shower or bathe in water that is near skin temperature.

- Cover all exposed skin with an SPF sunscreen (15 or above). Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head. Apply sunscreen under your mask to protect your face.

- The early warning signs of heat stress are decreased energy, slight loss of appetite, faintness, lightheadedness, and nausea. People experiencing these symptoms should go to a cool environment, drink fluids, remove excess clothing, and rest. If there is no improvement, call a doctor or 911. City hospitals are ready and available to accept patients who need help.

Call 911 immediately if you have or you see others with serious signs of heat stress, including unconsciousness, rapid heartbeat, throbbing headache, dry skin, chest pain, mental confusion, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, staggering, and difficulty breathing. People experiencing these symptoms should get immediate medical attention. While waiting for help move the person to a cool area, remove excess clothing, spray with water, and fan the person.

Staying Safe in the Heat

Whatever you choose to do outside, make sure you take it easy.

"Studies have shown that as quickly 45 minutes at excessively high temperatures people can start having some damage to vital organs," said Dr. Chidinma Nwakanma, assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

And that damage starts right around temps nearing the triple digits. Of course, health experts say it can vary from person to person.

But one thing that's not to be ignored are the early signs of heat exhaustion, which can quickly lead to the even more dangerous heat stroke - which is when the body's temperature rises above 104 degrees.

"Headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, some nausea, vomiting, excessive sweats, sweating, your heart may start racing those are things that let you know your body is not happy," Nwakanma added.

Also helping get the word about the excessive heat: the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, which activated its Heatline.

"Everything from cooling tips to actually getting people checked via nurses or even dispatching a mobile team so it's a really robust variety of services," said Helpline Director, Nolan Lawrence.

Helping the most vulnerable

Wes Lilly, an outreach worker with Hall-Mercer Community Behavioral Health Center of Pennsylvania Hospital, is working with the city's most vulnerable.

"We've been extremely busy. A lot of calls due to the weather," said Lilly.

The Outreach Coordinator Center averages about 55 calls for service a day in this heat emergency. They're getting about 30 additional calls for shelters.

"Right now, we're only concerned with people being able to cool off, stay warm, stay hydrated, stay safe," he said.

Philadelphia's Office of Homeless Services is increasing its outreach.

If you see someone on the street who needs help you can call (215) 232-1984. Call 911 if there is a medical emergency.

Helping the pets

During excessive heat, all dogs must have one or more separate areas of shade large enough to accommodate the entire body of the dog at one time and protect it from the direct rays of the sun. Owners can face a $500 fine (and can put their pets in grave danger) if they don't follow ACCT Philly's requirements. To report a dog left outdoors in very hot weather, call (267) 385-3800.