PORTLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Health Authority has increased the distribution of air conditioning units to individuals most at risk of heat-related illness, while also offering tips on staying cool during extreme heat conditions.
Additionally, the agency is reminding Oregon employers of a rule that requires them to take steps to keep workers safe from the dangers of high heat. Such steps should be taken when the temperature equals or exceeds 80 degrees.
of National Weather Service predicts an increase in temperatures during the week. They are expected to reach over 100 degrees in Pendleton, Redmond and the Portland metropolitan area by Tuesday, with Medford reaching 108 degrees. Temperatures are expected to stay above 100 in all parts of the state through at least Friday.
The program that provides air conditioning units to vulnerable Oregonians, including older adults, housebound individuals and those with medical conditions exacerbated by high heat events, was created following the passage of Senate Bill 1536 during the 2022 legislative session. The bill appropriated $5 million to purchase air conditioners for high-risk Oregonians who are eligible to receive medical assistance through OHA, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) or Medicare, or have received any of these services in the last 12 months. The law also allows the units to be installed in homes even if they are not permitted in homeowner or tenant agreements as long as they do not pose a safety risk.
Over the weekend, OHA—with coordination and support from ODHS—delivered nearly 500 AC units with the help of three community-based organizations: Portland Open Bible Church, Rockwood Community Development Corporation, and the Somali American Council of Oregon. OHA is procuring about 3,000 units this summer and has received about 1,000 to date. OHA will work with more community-based organizations to distribute AC units in the coming days.
Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs) can purchase AC units directly and help with any increased electric bill costs for their OHP enrolled members through them. flexible services offers. Members registered with a CCO can call member services to inquire about flexible services.
“Climate change has made extreme heat events the norm, not the exception, during Oregon’s summer months,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “These air conditioning units 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 one 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. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace, including the right to raise safety or health concerns without retaliation, and reminds employers of their obligations to protect workers from the dangers of high heat under the heat rule.
The rule addresses access to shade and fresh water, preventive cooling breaks and preventive plans, information and training. Oregon OSHA offers employers free resources to help them comply with the rule. These resources include consulting services, technical experts, fact sheet about the main requirements of the heating rule AND online training.
If workers raising safety or health concerns do not believe their concerns are being addressed, they may file a complaint with Oregon OSHA.
Finally, OHA continues to warn Oregonians about the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion during extreme heat events. Heat stroke can be fatal, with symptoms including high body temperature (103 degrees or higher); hot, red, dry or moist skin; headache; dizziness; nausea; and confusion. Heatstroke is considered a medical emergency and 911 should be called.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating; cold, pale, clammy skin; rapid and weak pulse; fatigue or weakness; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; dizziness; headache; and fainting. People experiencing heat exhaustion should be moved to a cool place and given a cool bath, wet cloths to put on their body, and water to drink. Seek medical help if symptoms worsen or last more than an hour.
OHA offers the following tips for staying safe and healthy during extreme heat conditions:
- Stay calm
- Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, 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 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. Try to plan activities in the morning and evening.
- Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially during the morning and evening hours, and close the shades on west-facing windows during the afternoon hours.
- Use portable electric fans to blow hot air out of rooms or draw in cooler air.
- Wear loose clothing to keep cool and protect your skin from the sun.
- Use cool compresses, such as a towel soaked in cold water, mist and cool showers and baths.
- Avoid hot foods and heavy foods; add heat to the body.
- Never leave babies or children in a parked car. Pets shouldn’t be left in parked cars either – they can also suffer from heat-related illnesses.
- Dress babies and children in loose, light, light-colored clothing.
- Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.
- Stay hydrated
- Regardless of your activity level, drink plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty, and especially when you’re working outside.
- Avoid alcohol or liquids that contain large amounts of sugar.
- Stay informed
- Keep up to date on the temperature and heat index when planning your activities so you can find ways to stay cool and hydrated. The heat index measures how hot it feels outside when taking humidity into account with the current air temperature. Visit the National Weather Service Oregon watches, warnings or advisories 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 illnesses. Know the warning signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash and how to treat and prevent them.
People with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or kidney disease may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they are drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning and know how to stay cool.
Those who exercise in extreme heat or work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and have heat-related illnesses and should pay special attention to staying 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