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Keep your cool when power goes out
WRITTEN BY :   Mark Sauter

DOWNEY – The first week of July was a warm and humid one. Thankfully, the second week has been cooler and dryer. However, we cannot count on cool and dry conditions. Here in Southern California we are fortunate to get an ocean breeze most afternoons and evenings. But sometimes even the breeze takes a few days of vacation time-off.
Many of our residents and visitors are sensitive to the heat. This sensitivity can be a ramification of health conditions or simply age (just being young or old). Regardless of the reason, when the temperatures climb and the humidity increases, many people have problems coping with the summer weather.
Air conditioning systems (central or portable) and electric fans (whole house, ceiling or portable) are the most common cooling mechanisms used in our area. Under most conditions, these systems keep the air moving and at a tolerable temperature. Unfortunately, these cooling systems all rely on electricity as their power source. So staying cool frequently hinges on having the equipment to treat the air and the power to supply the equipment.
Misting, insulation and shading systems have also become popular but have limited applications. When the outside temperature is hot and/or humid for a few days in a row, it is very difficult to keep the temperature down in a home.
With the weaknesses of the cooling systems in mind, it is a good time to consider the choices we have when the weather becomes uncomfortably warm. Let’s divide the choices into two parts, ‘with power’ and ‘without power’.
With Power….When our own systems are not ‘keeping up’ with the summer temperatures, we can search for other places to go. The City Library or the Barbara J Riley Senior Center on Quill are both good choices (also known as ‘cooling stations’) if transportation is available. So is a trip to the Stonewood Center, Krikorian Movie Theater, Columbia Memorial Space Center or any other shopping or dining establishment in Downey. A neighbor or relatives house with a better performing cooling system is also a sound alternative for beating the heat.
Without Power….This situation frequently requires a different set of solutions. It may be possible to go to a nearby public facility or a shopping/dining area out of the ‘blackout zone’. However, this isn’t always possible or easily identified. When the power went down earlier this month, the City library and the movie theater were without power too. Leaving town and heading to the beach area is another possibility, but you won’t likely be alone!
There are several actions we can take to keep our cool when the temperature rises and the power goes out:
-Move to an area with a breeze in a shady location, this can be accomplished by opening the windows in our home or by simply going outside.
- Cool your wrists, neck, head and feet. Whether you accomplish this by a splash of cold water, cooling compresses, cool shower or stepping into a basin or pool of water, do something to cool your body down. The evaporation of water provides a cooling affect on the body.
-Drink cool liquids. Downey has some of the best tasting water around. Or choose from a wide array of other thirst quenching, fluid replacement drinks.
-Wear light, loose clothing. The trick here is to keep the sun off your skin but to allow the air to circulate around you.
Now, the neighborhood solution….Can you check in on a neighbor who may be ‘heating up’ and offer a cool solution? Bring over some cool drinks, help set-up a fan, maybe invite your neighbor over to your house (if its cooler) for an hour or two until the weather cools down? Many of our neighbors wouldn’t consider asking for the favor, but they could really use the help. Know anyone who is ‘power’ dependent for oxygen or dialysis?
Your help could save them from a health emergency. When the power shuts-down, can you check-in and ensure your neighbor has enough water and the ability to get to the coolest place possible? Maybe open some windows and help to get a breeze flowing through their home?
Remember, you may need to get out and walk to your neighbors. The cell phone service may or may not be affected. Most cordless phones require electrical power to operate properly. Answer machines require electrical power as well. So don’t expect anyone to call you for assistance or for them to answer your inquiry. ‘Showing up’ at a relatives or neighbors house, during a power outage, to check on them, will be a very neighborly thing to do.
The preparedness actions you have taken before the power outage will make a difference in your experience after the power shuts down. Thinking over your options of places to go, methods of transportation, personal cooling systems and liquid replenishment, in advance, will provide you with the best alternatives.
Transportation problems are also exacerbated by power outages since the traffic signals require electricity to operate. Remember, when the traffic signals are not working, the law directs us to stop at the intersection as though it was a four-way stop.
Neighborhood safety… Remember, open windows and doors, left unattended, can be an invitation to problems. Watch your house and your neighbors house during hot-spells. Be sure to lock-up your house when you leave, even when its just to run a quick errand. Unfortunately, crime does not take a holiday during the Summer season. Good neighborhood watch principles like keeping an eye on your neighbors house and reporting suspicious activities are always appropriate.
If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to ready@downeyca.org

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Published: July 14, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 13



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