County staff not planning to provide such facilities
On July 17, with daytime highs continuing their trend in the 90s, Sarasota City Commissioner Debbie Trice remarked during her comments to her colleagues that she knows “we can’t do anything about the weather.”
However, Trice continued, “I haven’t seen any notifications [about] emergency cooling centers.”
When she arose that morning — to attend the 9 a.m. regular commission meeting — “The ‘feels like’ temperature was over 100 degrees,” she added.
“In the winter,” Trice pointed out, the city publicizes places where people can go to get warm when the temperature drops below a certain level. That is all the more reason, she said, that the city also needs to alert the public to the locations of the cooling centers.
“I didn’t know we had emergency cooling centers,” Vice Mayor Liz Alpert responded.
Alpert agreed with Trice about the need to let the public know where to find those locations.
In response to a Sarasota News Leader request this week, Jan Thornburg, general manager of the city’s Communications Department, provided the names and locations of those emergency cooling centers:
- Resurrection House – 507 Kumquat Court (open 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays).
- Remnant Café – 2895 Ashton Road (open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays).
In July 18 email providing more details for the commissioners, Deidre “Dede” Jones, coordinator of the city’s response to homelessness, noted that Remnant Cafe staff members provide transportation from the intersection of Ninth Street and Central Avenue and from the Sarasota County Transit station standing at the intersection of Lemon Avenue and Second Street. “They will come to those locations as many times as needed to transport all individuals interested in [going to the cafe],” she added, referring to homeless persons.
A News Leader check of data from the National Weather Service station at the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport found that the highs on July 16, 17, 18 and 19 at that facility were recorded respectively as 93, 93, 92 and 93. However, the highest heat index recorded for the same four days was 106, 105, 102 and 107.
The News Leader also asked Sarasota County Communications Department staff whether the county provides emergency cooling facilities.
In a July 19 email, Media Relations Officer Sara Nealeigh wrote, “Sarasota County is not planning any cooling stations, as that is not a normal practice during typical Florida summers. Sarasota County Emergency Services encourages the community to take precautions such as drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding strenuous activities, checking on family members and neighbors and finding air conditioning or shade if possible. It is never safe to leave people or pets in cars.”
The same day Trice made her points, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) issued a news release that urged all Florida residents and visitors “to practice heat safety, as dangerously hot and humid conditions continue statewide.”
The release noted, “Heat index values will climb into the triple digits, causing much of the state to be under heat advisories and at a greater risk for heat related illnesses.”
FDEM Executive Director Kevin Guthrie pointed out in the release, “With the heat index value reaching an upwards of 110 degrees in some areas, it’s important to take breaks from the heat and drink plenty of water.” Then, like Nealeigh, he stressed, “I urge all Floridians to practice heat safety and remember it is never safe to leave children or pets alone in a parked car.”
As FDEM explained in the release, “The heat index is the ‘apparent temperature or feels like temperature’ that describes the combined effect of high air temperature and high humidity. The higher this combination, the more difficult it is for the body to cool itself. With prolonged exposure to extreme heat your body is more at risk for experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”
Heat-related illnesses and further cautions
FDEM added the following information about heat-related illnesses in its news release:
- Heat Exhaustion– Symptoms “include dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating and weakness. If you experience any of these symptoms, act quickly and move to a cooler area. You should loosen your clothing and sip cool water slowly. Seek medical attention if symptoms do not improve. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
- “Heat Stroke – Signs of heat stroke include confusion, hot and dry skin with no sweat, a rapid, strong pulse and loss of consciousness. If you or a family member experience any of these symptoms call 911 immediately and move the person to a cooler area. Loosen clothing, remove extra layers and cool down with water or ice. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not received.”
Further, FDEM offered the following safety tips:
- “Never leave children, vulnerable adults, or pets in a parked car” – The temperature in a parked car can rise to 135 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Such heat can cause children, vulnerable adults, and pets to die. If you see a child, vulnerable adult or pet left unattended in a parked vehicle on a hot day, call 911 immediately. “If the person or pet is in imminent danger of suffering harm, you may use necessary force to remove the person or pet from the vehicle.
- “Limit time outside –Avoid being outdoors during the midday heat and spend more time inside the air conditioning when possible.
- “Utilize public spaces – Take advantage of public spaces with air conditioning,” such as a local library, to help stay cool.
- “Dress for summer – Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight and helps maintain your normal body temperature.
- “Stay hydrated –Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty.
- “Don’t get too much sun –Apply sunscreen if you are going to be in the sun for extended periods of time. Having a sunburn makes heat dissipation more difficult.”
For more safety tips in regard to extreme heat, the FDEM news release suggests people visit FloridaDisaster.org/Hazards/Heat-Wave.
Nealeigh of Sarasota County Communications also suggested that members of the public might like to review resources from the National Weather Service.
That webpage points out, “Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. Heat can be very taxing on the body; check out the heat related illnesses that can occur with even a short period of exposure. Everyone can be vulnerable to heat, but some more so than others. According to The Impacts Of Climate Change On Human Health In The United States: A Scientific Assessment the … groups [below] are particularly vulnerable to heat; check in with friends and relatives who fall in one of these populations, especially if they don’t have air conditioning.”
- “Young children and infants … as their bodies are less able to adapt to heat than are adults.”
- Older adults, particularly those who have pre-existing diseases, who take certain medications, who are living alone or who have limited mobility. They can experience multiple adverse effects if exposed to extreme heat.
- “People with chronic medical conditions are more likely to have a serious health problem during a heat wave than healthy people.
- “Pregnant women are also at higher risk. Extreme heat events have been associated with adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality, as well as congenital cataracts.”