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LIHEAP Resource Guide on Indoor Health and Safety

Published: June 20, 2012
Audience:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Category:
Publications/Reports, Resource Guide

Indoor Health


If you suspect that someone is suffering from the cold or heat, call 911 for emergency help.

Home Heating and Your Health

High heating bills can force people to lower the temperatures in their homes in order to save money. However, indoor temperatures can be lowered to unsafe levels, which can result in hypothermia (cold stress or low body temperatures).

Hypothermia (hi-po-ther- mee-uh) can cause illness or even death either indoors or outdoors. Older people may be at greater risk for this condition if their body's response to cold is diminished by certain illnesses like arthritis, medications, and some over-the-counter cold remedies.

A way to identify someone with hypothermia is to look for the "umbles"- stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles. Changes in a person's behavior may indicate that the cold is affecting how well that person's muscles and nerves work.

Need more information on hypothermia? See:


Indoor Cooling and Your Health

Summer brings cooling bills. High cooling bills can force people to raise the temperatures in their homes in order to save money. Also, people may try to cope with hot spells by relying on fans in a home in which the windows are closed due to fear of crime. However, indoor temperatures can be raised to unsafe levels, which can result in hyperthermia (heat stress or high body temperatures).

Hyperthermia can cause illness or death either indoors or outdoors. Need more information on hyperthermia? See:

Use of electric fans--The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that fans may be useful to increase comfort and to draw cool air into your home at night. However, CDC warns that you should not rely on a fan as a primary cooling device during a heat wave. When the temperature is in the high 90s or higher, a fan will not prevent heat-related illness. A cool shower or bath is a more effective way to cool off.

Indoor Safety

As households look for ways to save money in tough economic times, there is increased concern about fire deaths and carbon monoxide poisonings from alternative heating sources. Indoor safety can be endangered by natural disasters, fuel shortages, supply disruptions, home energy equipment failures, and power outages.

Fuel Disruptions/Equipment Failures/Home Fire Safety

The use of makeshift heating sources such as unvented or improperly vented portable heaters, barbecue grills or gas stoves, are not only fire hazards, but also create the risk of asphyxiation (carbon monoxide poisoning) and fire deaths.

Need more indoor safety information? See:

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can result in the loss of home energy due to fuel supply disruptions and/or damage to a home's heating or cooling system. The National Weather Service provides warnings and forecasts of life-threatening weather, including thunderstorms, hailstorms, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and climate events.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assists the public and businesses recover from natural disasters. FEMA also provides information on what to do when natural disasters strike. FEMA has prepared disaster information on:

  • earthquakes, floods and flash floods, hurricanes, landslides, mud flows, tornadoes, tsunamis, thunderstorms, lightning, and volcanoes; and
  • extreme heat and fire safety during or after a disaster;
  • winter driving, winter storms, winter preparedness safety tips.

If disaster strikes, your community needs to be prepared to respond to people with disabilities, people who speak little or no English, and people who are frail, elderly, very young, or homeless.