July 18, 2013 – The Health Department today warned New Yorkers about this week’s dangerous heat wave and asked New Yorkers to assist persons at risk for the dangerous effects of heat. Today marks the fifth day of dangerous levels of heat, with the hottest conditions today and tomorrow, and continued hot weather through Saturday. The risk increases with each passing day and the intensifying heat. City agencies and nonprofit service providers are visiting the homes of vulnerable persons, and the Health Department is asking New Yorkers to assist this effort by checking on vulnerable relatives, friends, and neighbors to get them into a cool place or get them medical attention if they are showing signs of heat illness. Signs of illness include hot, dry skin OR cold, clammy skin; confusion or disorientation; nausea and vomiting; trouble breathing; rapid heartbeat; weakness and dizziness. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley updated New Yorkers at City Hall Senior Center, where he was joined by Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno and Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli.
“New York City has not endured a heat wave this long since 2006, which was a deadly heat wave that lasted 10 days,” said Commissioner Farley. “It’s extremely important for elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions to stay cool. We’re asking New Yorkers to help us check on those at risk. If you do, you just may be saving a life.”
“This is the fifth day of this dangerous heat wave, and we expect it to be even warmer tomorrow with hot and humid conditions persisting through Saturday,” said Commissioner Bruno. “Today it’s going to feel like 100 degrees and tomorrow is going to be even hotter with the heat index potentially reaching 105 degrees. These temperatures, in any duration, can be deadly. It’s vital that New Yorkers look out for their own and check in on their neighbors.”
“During periods of extreme heat, seniors are among those who are most at risk. In response to this issue, 230 senior centers citywide operate as cooling centers and 80 of these centers offer extended hours,” said Commissioner Barrios-Paoli. “Nearly 50,000 individuals have visited cooling centers between Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16 alone. We strongly urge New Yorkers to either visit a nearby cooling center or stay at home if you have air conditioning. Our case managers also check on the most vulnerable seniors and have made more than 1,600 calls to ensure their safety. We encourage all New Yorkers to do the same and check on their elderly, frail and disabled neighbors, as well.”
The warning was given following reports of a heat-related death during a shorter heat wave in early July. According to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, a 57-year-old Staten Island man passed away on July 8, 2013 due to hyperthermia (heat stroke). The man suffered from an underlying medical condition.
From Monday through Wednesday, the Health Department’s data showed increases in heat-related illness visits to emergency departments – about twice expected for the time of year - and heat-related ambulance calls – about three times expected. These represent only a small fraction of the number of people who were likely experiencing heat illness. The risk of serious heat illness usually increases with the length and severity of a heat wave.
Heat at this level and for this duration is dangerous and can kill. During the heat wave of July 2006, which lasted 10 days with heat indices reaching 110, 40 people died from heat-related illness. In addition, during that time period, the Health Department estimates that there were 100 excess deaths from cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. The current heat wave, while forecast to be somewhat less severe, is likely to be the longest heat wave since 2006.
The City has directed all social service agencies that provide services to vulnerable people such as home health care, meals on wheels, and other programs, to reach out to all of their clients to see that they are well and not at risk. We are also asking New Yorkers to help their fellow citizens by checking in on those vulnerable people that they know of, especially those without air conditioners, particularly if they live alone. Help them get to a cool place, make sure they are drinking enough water and check for signs of heat illness If they have signs of severe heat illness, such as confusion, call 911 immediately to get medical help; those with warning symptoms, such as lightheadedness or cramps should be helped to cool off and given water. For more information on heat illness, see below or visit nyc.gov/health/heat.
City cooling centers will remain open through Sunday to help New Yorkers stay cool. Some centers will operate with extended hours. Cooling centers are air conditioned places, such as Department for the Aging (DFTA) senior centers, libraries, and community centers, that are open to the public during heat emergencies. To find the cooling center closest to you, call 311 or visit OEM’s Cooling Center Locator at www.nyc.gov/oem.
Facts About Heat Illness
- Do not have or do not use air conditioning
- Are age 65 or older
- Have chronic medical or mental health conditions or a developmental disability or dementia
- Take certain medications that can disrupt the regulation of body temperature
- Are confined to their beds, have trouble with being mobile, or are unable to leave their homes
- Are overweight or obese
- Consume alcohol or illegal drugs
Call 911 immediately if you have, or someone you know has:
- Hot, dry skin OR cold, clammy skin
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
For more information on the health effects associated with extreme heat, search “heat illness” at nyc.gov.