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Sharing the cool: How to help the less fortunate in your community beat the heat

May 16, 2012, 8:31 a.m.

Summertime brings its fair share of good and bad. For the elderly, the handicapped, and those in ill health, staying cool in hot weather can be a matter of life and death. To make matters worse, not everyone can afford air conditioning units in their home, making times of extreme heat particularly perilous. If you're fortunate enough to have air conditioning but would like to lend a helping hand to those in your community who could be at great risk during especially hot days, there are things you can do to get involved and make a positive difference with your peers.

The most helpful thing you can do is to simply check in on elderly, handicapped, or sick neighbors to ensure they're staying cool in hot weather. To do this, it's important that you become familiar with those who live around you so that you'll know who to look after first if the thermometer starts climbing to dangerous levels. If you believe that the person you're checking in on is in danger, offer to drive them someplace that has air-conditioning -- like your home, or an indoor shopping mall.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that being moved to an air conditioned environment is the best possible situation for someone in danger of succumbing to heat-related illness or death. The CDC is also quick to remind us that more ill and elderly Americans are killed each year from extreme heat than by floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning combined. With these shocking statistics in hand, it's imperative that you get involved if your elderly, handicapped, or ill neighbors have no ways to stay cool during summer heat waves. Think about it. Wouldn't you want someone to do the same for you?

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