City announces new severe weather program
City will consider extreme weather the "new norm."
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay today announced the establishment of a severe weather public health protection program within the Department of Health. The program will be charged with organizing people and resources to improve the prevention of death during severe weather, especially prolonged periods of extremely high or low temperatures.
“Whether it is power outages caused by snow and ice in the winter, tornadoes and flooding in the spring, or dangerous heat in the summer, these extreme events are happening often enough that we need to dedicate public health workers to do nothing else but organize our prevention and response,” Slay said. “Over the last decade, during severe weather events, the team in City government has been organized, thorough, and professional. I’m proud of what they have accomplished. But, with more severe weather, we have to do even better.”
“We must treat storms and prolonged periods of extremely high temperatures as the new norm,” said Health Director Walker. “We should come to expect it every year – and we will dedicate more time and resources to plan for these types of situations all year long.”
Shontae Fluelen-Hays of the Health Department will be heading the program. She will coordinate with the City’s Department of Public Safety, Fire Department, Human Services Department, Housing Authority, and other city and non-profit agencies. All year, not just during extreme weather, they will work to educate the public on how to prevent weather-related illness and will coordinate with the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging (SLAAA) to continually add individuals to the Functional Needs Registry and keep it up-to-date.
“All year long, not just during emergencies, we will be working to keep people safe and healthy during weather emergencies,” said Shontae Fluelen-Hays. “I will work with a team from the Health Department to educate the public on how to prevent weather-related illness and will coordinate closely with other departments to continue to improve the City’s plans.”
“We’ve found that many of the victims of extreme heat had underlying medical conditions or mental health issues,” said Walker. “I want the City to have a more exhaustive list of those individuals so we can check on them. But, even with more focus, government can’t do everything. We need to continue to remind people to be insistent that your at-risk neighbors, friends, family members, and clients go to a cool place during times of extreme heat, even when they resist.”
The City released four additional heat related deaths: Enones Berry, a 72-year-old black female, Timothy Simmonson, a 43-year-old white male, Troy Cooper, a 70-year-old black male, and Earl Rinker, a 43-year-old white male, bringing the total of heat related deaths in the City of St. Louis to 14.
The Health Department is also considering making the recommendation to introduce a City ordinance requiring landlords to provide and properly maintain window units or central air.
“Most of the victims had access to air conditioning, but when investigators turned the units on, they found that they either didn’t work or only blew hot air,” continued Walker.
In addition to the new program in the Health Department, the Department of Public Safety is going to raise awareness of the danger of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and high winds. The Building Division will begin an initiative to educate businesses and special event organizers that individuals must be evacuated from outdoor tents when severe weather warnings are pending.
“It seems like common sense, but it’s something that we have to remind people so they can keep themselves safe,” said Public Safety Director Eddie Roth. “Tents are built as temporary structures – and people should never seek refuge from severe weather in temporary structures.”
The City of St. Louis continues to urge people to take precaution in any type of weather.
“We have the potential to see extreme high and low temperatures, as well as tornadoes and dangerous storms in St. Louis,” said Mayor Slay. “We all need to work to keep ourselves and each other safe. I continue to urge people to sign up for Nixle to get weather-related information sent directly to your phone or email, and to sign yourself or others up for the Functional Needs Registry. If you know someone who is elderly or disabled and needs an air conditioner or help paying their utility bills, please help them contact Cool Down St. Louis or the United Way for assistance.”
Residents can sign up for Nixle, a free service that sends alerts directly to individuals’ cell phones via text message and/or email, by visiting www.nixle.com to sign up for the alerts or by texting STLCEMA to 888777.
City residents can register on the Functional Needs Registry or can register fellow City residents on the Registry by calling Kelli McCurdy at 314-657-1676 or by visiting http://stlcityspecialneeds.org/WebPages/FAQ.aspx.
At risk seniors and low-income households can apply for assistance from Cool Down St. Louis at 314-241-7668, or www.cooldownstlouis.org. Residents may also call the United Way at 211 if they need additional assistance.
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