Oregon Health Authority is stepping up air conditioner distribution to at-risk groups and offering tips to stay cool

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Oregon Department of Health has increased air conditioning distribution to those most at risk of heat-related illnesses, while offering tips on staying cool in extreme heat.

In addition, the agency is reminding Oregon employers of a rule that requires them to take steps to protect workers from the dangers of intense heat. Such steps must be taken when the temperature reaches or exceeds 80 degrees.

The National Weather Service is forecasting rising temperatures throughout the week. They are expected to hit over 100 degrees by Tuesday in Pendleton, Redmond and the Portland metro area, with Medford hitting 108 degrees. Temperatures are expected to remain above 100 in all parts of the state through at least Friday.

The program, which provides air conditioning to vulnerable Oregon residents, including older adults, homebound individuals and those with medical conditions aggravated by heat events, was established following the passage of Senate Bill 1536 during the 2022 legislative session. The bill provides $5 million for air conditioning purchases for high-risk Oregonians who are eligible for medical assistance through OHA, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), or Medicare, or have used any of those services in the past 12 months have claimed. The law also allows the units to be installed in homes even if they aren’t allowed in a homeowner’s or tenant’s contract, as long as they don’t pose a safety risk.

Over the weekend, OHA—with coordination and support from ODHS—delivered about 500 AC units with help from three community-based organizations: Portland Open Bible Church, Rockwood Community Development Corporation, and Somali American Council of Oregon. OHA is sourcing an estimated 3,000 units this summer and has received approximately 1,000 so far. OHA will be working with additional community-level organizations to distribute AC units in the coming days.

Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) can purchase AC units directly and help with increased utility bill costs for their registered OHP members through their flexible service offerings. Members registered with a CCO may call Member Services to inquire about flexible services.

“Climate change has made extreme heat events during Oregon’s summer months the norm, not the exception,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “These conditioners are a necessary step in building resilience to this health threat, especially for those most vulnerable to heat exhaustion, heat stroke and death.”

Another important step is the development of a new heat rule, passed in May at the request of Gov. Kate Brown, that protects Oregon workers, including those whose jobs require them to be outside. Oregon Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA) states that workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to raise a safety or health concern without retaliation, and reminds employers of their duty to protect workers from the hazards of high levels Heat protect heat rule.

The rule covers access to shade and cool water, preventative cool-down breaks, and prevention plans, information and training. Oregon OSHA offers employers free resources to help them comply with the rule. These resources include consulting services, technical experts, factsheets on key Heat Rule requirements, and online training.

If workers who raise safety or health concerns do not believe their concerns are being addressed, they can file a complaint with Oregon OSHA.

Finally, the OHA continues to warn Oregon residents about the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion during extreme heat events. Heatstroke can be fatal, with symptoms such as high body temperature (103 degrees or higher); hot, red, dry, or clammy skin; Headache; Dizziness; nausea; and confusion. Heatstroke is considered a medical emergency and should be called 911.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include profuse sweating; cold, pale, clammy skin; rapid, weak pulse; tiredness or weakness; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; Dizziness; Headache; and fainting. People with heat exhaustion should be taken to a cool place and given a cool bath, wet towels to cover their bodies, and water to swallow. See a doctor if symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour.

OHA offers the following tips to stay safe and healthy during extreme heat:

  1. stay calm
    • When the temperature is high, stay in air-conditioned places if possible. To find cooling centers in Oregon, call 211 or visit https://www.211info.org/get-help/housing-shelter/extreme-heat-cooling-centers/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
    • Avoid sun exposure between 10am and 4pm when UV rays are at their strongest. Try to plan morning and evening activities.
    • Open the windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially in the mornings and evenings, and close the blinds on the west-facing windows in the afternoons.
    • Use portable electric fans to extract hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothing to stay cool and protect your skin from the sun.
    • Use cool compresses such as B. a towel dipped in cold water, mist and cool showers and baths.
    • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; They add heat to the body.
    • Never leave infants or children in a parked car. Pets should also not be left in parked cars – they too can contract heat-related illnesses.
    • Dress infants and children in loose, light, light-colored clothing.
    • Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when you go outside.
  2. drink enough
    • Regardless of your activity level, drink plenty of fluids, even when you’re not thirsty and especially when working outdoors.
    • Avoid alcohol or liquids that contain a lot of sugar.
  3. stay informed
    • Keep track of the temperature and heat index as you plan your activities so you can find ways to stay cool and hydrated. The heat index measures how hot it feels outside when humidity is factored in with actual air temperature. Visit the National Weather Service Clocks, Warnings or Advice for Oregon Site or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Heat and health tracker for the latest.
    • Learn how to prevent, recognize and treat heat-related diseases. Know the warning signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash and how to treat and prevent them.

People with chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or kidney disease are less able to perceive and react to changes in temperature. They may also be taking medications that can worsen the effects of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they’re drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning, and know how to stay cool.

Those who exercise or work outdoors in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illnesses and should take extra care to stay as cool and hydrated as possible.

For more information visit:

Understanding Heat Advisories (OHA): https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/DiseasesConditions/CommunicableDisease/PreparednessSurveillanceEpidemiology/Documents/understandha.pdf

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