June 19, 2014

As heat rises, a search for cool in the Triangle

As oppressive heat continues to roll through the Triangle, air conditioning can be taken for granted. But for some, it's a luxury they just can't afford. The 'Cool for Wake' program provides fans for non-air-conditioned homes with adults 60 and older and children 12 and under.

As oppressive heat continues to roll through the Triangle, air conditioning can be taken for granted. But for some, it’s a luxury they just can’t afford.

Wake County Human Services aims to help, with its “Cool for Wake” seasonal outreach program. It provides one free fan per household for non-air-conditioned homes with adults 60 and older or children 12 and under.

“The reason we target children and seniors is their health is most vulnerable to extreme heat,” said Denise Kissel, resource development specialist for Wake County. “Their health and safety is the primary goal.”

One 20-inch box fan is distributed per qualifying household every year. Since May 1, 161 fans have been distributed.

Last year, 191 fans were distributed from May to September — the program’s run time.

To receive a fan, a person or their social worker should call Kissel, who will need to verify the information.

Hattie Wood, director of community health and director of nursing at the Durham County Department of Public Health, said that during periods of extreme heart, fans may just blow hot air around.

“People with chronic medical conditions are less likely to respond to changing temperatures, and there are some medications that will be impacted by extreme heat,” she said.

And even for those with air conditioning, it’s important to know the dangers of extreme heat. Muscle cramps, copious sweating, nausea and weakness are signs of heat exhaustion, which can turn into heat stroke.

“If you start sweating and your skin becomes hot and red and your pulse increases, you need to immediately call 911, because that is heat stroke,” Wood said.

In addition to providing fans, Wake County Human Services also will provide air conditioners with the help of the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors. That partnership began last year.

“We decided we wanted to participate in Cool for Wake,” said Ann Hughes, volunteer with the association’s community service committee and a realtor for Raleigh-Cary Realty. “We coordinated with Wake County Human Services to help out with medically fragile recipients who are in need of an air conditioning unit.”

A $5,000 grant was given by Homes 4NC, in addition to donations by Realtors and the Housing Task Force to buy 102 A/C units.

Air conditioning units are provided to households in which an individual has a documented, medical illness affecting the respiratory system. To receive an air conditioning unit, an applicant must provide Kissel with a doctor’s note.

Hughes said the association is sending four to six air conditioners out every week, surpassing the 30 to 40 that were sent in total last summer. In addition to supplying fans, the Association of Realtors also delivers the units to the household.

“We do anything we can that helps with housing or comfort for the home,” she said. “With the window A/C units, it makes the world of difference for them, no matter if it’s a family with children or someone with a medical need.”

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