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Dane County Executive Falk Announces Emergency Plan on Stand-by for Weekend

For more information contact:

Joanne Haas, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 7/13/2006

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said today the county is prepared to provide residents assistance this weekend should a predicted heat wave hit the region, causing widespread need among residents.

“High heat could hurt some of us,” Falk said. “Here’s what we can do to protect ourselves and be good neighbors.”

The Dane County Emergency Management Agency will be monitoring the situation all weekend, and cooling centers will be activated in select areas if the need arises, Falk said, adding area senior centers also could reopen if necessary.

“The forecast for our area for the next several days has all the makings for a heat wave that could pose some real health problems for everyone. It is vital to take steps to stay safe, healthy and cool. Please remember to check on your neighbors and those with fragile health. And don’t forget about pets – extreme heat can take a toll on their systems as well.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Milwaukee late yesterday said the Madison area likely would see temperatures from the low to mid-90s during the weekend with heat indices ranging from 100 to about 104 degrees. Monday may be a bit cooler but the 90-degree-plus temperatures and higher heat indices are expected back on Tuesday.

“The combination of this heat and humidity can be fatal for some if caution is not used. And if you or someone you know develops health problems related to the heat, there is help nearby,” Falk said.

For individuals, the County-City Health Department recommends to limit outdoor activities, drink more fluids but avoid alcohol and caffeine, wear light colors and a hat and spend time in air-conditioned facilities.

A milder form of a weather-related ailment is heat exhaustion -- characterized by heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke if the signs of exhaustion are ignored.

Heat stroke is when the body is unable to regulate its own temperature. Victims have a high body temperature with red, hot, dry skin and are unable to sweat. A throbbing headache, dizziness and confusion also are symptoms.

“The best response to a heat stroke is to call 911 immediately – whether it be the victim realizing danger is at hand or a person finding another in distress,” Falk said.

Area senior centers always are good choices for cooling shelters during the workweek, Falk said, but most will not be open this weekend which is why the emergency shelter process will be on stand-by.

For pets, the Dane County Humane Society reminds pet owners that dogs and cats cannot perspire so it is crucial to keep them cool. That means you should either keep them in the shade outside with lots of water, or bring them inside to a cooled room out of the heat and humidity. Walk your pets in the morning or evening to avoid the worst of the day’s heat, and remember hot asphalt may burn paws.

Pets also can suffer sunburn on their noses, especially light-colored dogs. The Humane Society says human sunscreen may be applied on pets, and the better choices are ointments made for babies.

Humans and pets alike should never be left in a closed parked vehicle because, health and animal experts warn, the temperature inside the vehicle can rise quickly and trigger serious health problems.

Falk also noted with the extreme weather conditions comes the possibility of a Clean Air Action Day declaration, which lets Dane County residents know ground-level ozone could reach unhealthy levels for children, older adults and those with asthma. The declarations are made by the Dane County Clean Air Coalition and come the day before.

“Ground-level ozone is a harmful colorless gas that forms on hot, sunny days with little or no wind. These conditions allow the pollutants in the air to cook in the sunlight and create unhealthy conditions,” Falk said, adding about 40,000 county residents suffer from asthma.

On Clean Air Action Days, residents are urged to carpool, walk or ride the free Madison Metro buses to work and to delay the use of any gas-powered equipment, such as lawn mowers, until evening.

“If we all keep some of these tips in mind and watch out for ourselves, our neighbors and our pets, we can have a hot but safe next several days,” Falk said.

“While it is unlikely that we will face widespread problems, we have a plan to assist anyone and everyone who finds themselves in some kind of heat distress if the extreme heat and humidity stays longer and produces worse than anticipated problems,” Falk said. “The Dane County Emergency Management will make the call whether to open the shelters.”

The Dane County Emergency Management office will be monitoring the situation all weekend, Falk said, and has the authority to declare a heat emergency. Then the process to open cooling shelter will begin.

Once the determination a community shelter is needed, Falk said, the American Red Cross-Badger Chapter is one of the key agencies the county department works with to designate the shelter. If the plan is activated, the media will be alerted.

The American Red Cross-Badger Chapter also operates a hotline to provide information to individuals how to best handle the heat. The 24-hour number is 233-9300.

The United Way of Dane County also operates a 24-hour telephone hotline and also is ready to provide information regarding how best to handle the heat, Falk said. The United Way number is 211, 246-4357 (HELP).


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