Chatham County makes plan to keep cool

Increase in heat-related illness prompts new Heat Action Plan


Summer is the season of outdoor events and heat. Chatham County has devised a plan to keep its residents safe from the heat.

Steve Newton, the Chatham County Emergency Management Director, explained the reasoning behind this plan: "Our top priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of our community. From setting up Cooling Centers to providing key resources and information, we're committed to keeping our residents safe and comfortable during periods of high temperatures."

Anne Lowry, the Chatham County Environmental Health Director, stated that over the past three years, the number of emergency room visits from heat-related illnesses has increased by nearly 30% statewide. Chatham County is combating this issue with its Heat Action Plan. There are three phases to ensure the safety of the residents this summer.

Phase one, called the readiness phase, includes the training and preparation of first responders and employers on how to recognize heat-related illnesses. The county will also confirm the locations of cooling centers that can be made available to the public if needed. The start of phase one will begin when temperatures reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

As conditions worsen, phases two and three will be initiated. These phases may include critical actions such as issuing heat health alerts, opening Cooling Centers, and activating a transportation plan to make these centers more accessible.

The Heat Action Plan aims to protect the public from illnesses like heatstroke, with a particular focus on vulnerable residents such as those who are 65 and older or without air conditioning.

Several community resources are currently available to help Chatham County residents stay cool:

  • The Department of Social Services provides energy bill assistance for income-eligible households and distributes box fans to community members.
  • Chatham County Aging Services distributes box fans to those who are 60 years old or older or have a disability.
  • Chatham County Public Libraries serve as Cooling Centers during extreme heat events.
  • Chatham County Parks and Recreation offers a misting machine for a quick cool-down at Southwest District Park.
  • The Town of Pittsboro features a splash pad for children at Knight Farm Community Park.

Chatham County's Heat Action Plan will help keep residents cool and able to enjoy outdoor activities safely over the summer season. This plan can be used annually when temperatures begin to rise.