EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Extreme Weather Task Force (EWTF) will launch its “Summer Safety & Fan Drive” campaign with a news conference at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 1 at El Paso Fire Station 5 located at 400 Revere.

With daily temperatures rising closer to 100 degrees, the EWTF is soliciting fan donation and educating the public on hot weather safety to help protect the unprotected in the community.

The news conference will include the following speakers/topics:

  • Grace Ortiz- APS Community Engagement and EWTF Chair
    Welcome and EWTF mission
  • Joe Delizio- National Weather Service
    Summer forecast
  • John Valerio- El Paso Fire Department
    Summer fire safety/fan donation drop off procedure
  • Josie Dozal- X Cleaning Professionals
    Pet safety
  • Ruth Castillo- El Paso City- County Health Authority
    Summer health and safety tips
  • Joy Leos- 2-1-1 Texas
    Fan requests and eligibility criteria
  • Yvette Lugo- Area Agency on Aging
    Buddy system
  • Andrea Cortez- Project Bravo
    Weatherization program

EWTF has collected and delivered over 10,000 free electric box fans to qualifying elderly and needy families in our community since 2004.

“Our partners at 2-1-1 are already taking calls for fan requests,” said Grace Ortiz, APS Faith-Based Community Engagement Specialist and EWTF Chair. “We want people to know the EWTF is actively working on providing fans to the most vulnerable in our community who have no air conditioning in their homes.”

“Currently, we have about 300 fans in our inventory,” said Ortiz.

One of the ways to help save lives is the use of the “Buddy System.” This simply involves having a trusted relative, friend or neighbor check in daily with an elderly or disabled person during a heat wave.

A buddy encourages an at-risk individual to stay cool by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing, eating well, drinking plenty of fluids and cooling their home safely. If errands are to be done, the buddy does them or ensures they get done.

Those most at-risk for heat stroke include elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or cooling; babies sleeping in hot bedrooms; children left unattended; adults under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs; mentally ill individuals; people who remain outdoors for long periods (the homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.)

EWTF also recommends individuals go to one of the designated cool zones in the community if adequate cooling is unavailable at home. These cool zones include public libraries, indoor shopping malls and senior citizen centers.  

New fan donations can be dropped off any time at local fire stations in El Paso and Horizon City. Those in need of a fan who meet EWTF criteria should call 2-1-1.

Corporate and monetary donations are welcome payable to the APS Silver Star Board mailing address at 401 E. Franklin Ave, Suite 350, Attention Grace Ortiz, and El Paso, Texas 79901.

In addition, EWTF shared the following tips for preventing heat-related illness:

  • Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic) regardless of your activity level.
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors, and if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library, even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower/bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

If you must be in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and by putting on a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher – the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.