SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County leaders Wednesday announced several ways for seniors, people with underlying health conditions and residents who are easily affected when temperatures rise to keep cool during heat waves -- including free cool zones, fans, drinking fountains and free transportation.
"I want San Diegans to know their county is prepared to help them beat the heat," Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said. "Every year our county team, together with our partners, develop plans to assist San Diegans in keeping cool during unbearable heat waves. We have cool zones, free fans and new this year is a partnership with 211 San Diego to help people without transportation get to cool zones during heat emergencies for free."
Fletcher was joined at the county's Cool Zone at Spring Valley Recreation Center by representatives from 211 San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric and the county's Aging & Independence Services.
"East County is known for some of the highest temperatures in San Diego County," said Supervisor Joel Anderson, who represents all of the southern and eastern county from La Mesa to Imperial County. "That's why `cool zones' are so important to me."
The county has 16 cool zones open at various libraries, recreation centers, museums and fitness centers. These are free, air-conditioned locations people can go to get out of the heat on specific days and times.
"Cool zones can be a lifesaver. Even short periods of exposure to high temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially for older adults," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "Working or exercising outside on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps."
Those on limited income who are unable to visit a cool zone are eligible to have a free oscillating fan mailed to them by SDG&E. To be eligible, residents must not have access to an air-conditioned space at their home or apartment building. To request a fan, eligible individuals can call the county's Aging & Independence Services at 800-339-4661.
"The most vulnerable residents in our region -- those who are homebound due to their age, disabilities and health conditions -- are at the greatest risk of heat-related illnesses," said Tashonda Taylor, SDG&E's vice president of customer operations. "It's important that we make extra efforts to help these residents."
The county and 211 San Diego have created a partnership to help people find and access the nearest cool zone location by dialing 2-1-1 during a heat emergency. For those who need assistance with rides, 211 San Diego will help coordinate a transportation or ride share program. Visit 211sandiego.org to find active cool zone locations or call 2-1-1.
In case of a major heat emergency, the county is able to expand existing cool zones to "surge capacity" at libraries and recreation centers. If necessary, officials said the county is ready to work with other local jurisdictions to add additional facilities.