By Lauren Christopher, Director, Division of Energy Assistance, Office of Community Services
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat events are a leading cause of extreme weather-related deaths in the United States and the number is rising. Based on data files from the National Vital Statistics System, from 1999 to 2010, a total of 7,415 people died due to exposure to excessive natural heat, an average of about 618 deaths a year. Heat-related deaths and illness mostly are preventable.
The Administration for Children and Families is one of the many Federal agencies working to help communities prepare for high temperatures this summer. While anyone can develop heat stress, which can cause a person to not cool down properly, the populations that are at a heightened risk may also be eligible for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assistance.
LIHEAP is a $3.6 billion program administered by states, territories and tribal governments. Many states partner with a network of local community-based organizations to provide assistance directly to households. A number of communities may be using LIHEAP as a powerful tool to ease extreme heat-related health risks during the summer months by offering heat related services as well as assistance with electric bill payment and energy-related home repairs. Heat related services may include
- Cooling centers with air conditioners.
- Provision of fans and air conditioners.
- Providing critical information about emergency resources and guidance.
To locate the energy assistance office in your area, please call the National Energy Assistance Referral line toll-free phone number at 1-866-674-6327 or email email@example.com. You can also contact your State and Territory grantee or Tribal grantee for information on the LIHEAP assistance that may be available.
As another resource, see the LIHEAP Resource Guide on Indoor Health and Safety which provides additional information and resources to help you stay cool. Fear of high cooling bills may force people to raise the thermostat on the energy system in their homes in order to save money. But higher indoor temperatures may lead to unsafe conditions and extreme heat. Closing window blinds reduces the amount of sun entering the home, decreasing the indoor heat. Using the stove and oven less, and cooking in larger batches to prepare meals to cover a few days are other tactics of keeping homes cooler in the summer.
The strongest protective factor against heat-related illness is air conditioning, with exposure to air conditioning for even a few hours a day reduces associated illness risks. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s or greater, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Better ways to cool off are to take a cool shower or bath or to move to an air-conditioned place such as a shopping center, library, or other designated cooling center.
Beyond indoor cooling, remember to stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day, check routinely on the elderly and other homebound individuals, and NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle. Remember, cracking the windows will not be enough to prevent heat stroke for a person or pet left in a car.
For information on heat-related illnesses and treatment, please visit the CDC Extreme Heat website Visit disclaimer page .