Baltimore City Health Department Announces Start of the Code Red Extreme Heat Season

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Contact:
Blair Adams
Director of Communications

(443)690-4396 (Cell)
BlairK.Adams@BaltimoreCity.gov 
 

Baltimore City Health Department Announces Start of the Code Red Extreme Heat Season

BALTIMORE, MD (Wednesday, May 15, 2024)—Today, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) announced the start of Baltimore City’s Code Red Extreme Heat season, spanning from May 15 to September 15. The Code Red Extreme Heat Program is a collaboration across multiple agencies to address the effects of extreme heat on the residents of Baltimore City. Throughout the summer months, various City agencies engage in public education among residents about the health consequences of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Additionally, community outreach initiatives are conducted to provide information about energy assistance programs tailored for older adults and other vulnerable populations. 

“I want to remind everyone that with the onset of the Code Red Heat Index season, it’s crucial to prioritize safety measures for our residents, especially our most vulnerable adults, children and those with pre-existing health challenges,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “High temperatures pose serious health risks, therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated, and remain indoors in cool spaces. This will help mitigate the impact of extreme heat and ensure the safety and well-being of our entire community.”

A Code Red Extreme Heat Alert will be activated by the Health Commissioner when the forecasted heat index – a measure of air temperature and relative humidity indicating perceived outdoor heat– reaches or exceeds 105ºF. During such alerts, staff from various City agencies, including the Health Department, Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, and the Office of Emergency Management, will collaborate to establish cooling centers across the city. These centers will provide air-conditioned facilities and water to residents lacking access to cool environments in their homes. Cooling centers will be operational at six BCHD senior centers, five Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services sites, two Housing Authority of Baltimore City locations, and ShopRite of Howard Park. A comprehensive list of these centers is accessible on BCHD’s website: https://health.baltimorecity.gov/emergency-preparedness-response/code-red. Additionally, residents seeking relief from the heat are also encouraged to visit open Pratt library locations during normal business hours.    

“In declaring the onset of the Code Red Extreme Heat season, we recognize the critical need to protect our community from the dangers of extreme temperatures,” said Baltimore City Commissioner of Health Dr. Ihuoma Emenuga. “As excessive heat emerges as a leading weather-related threat, especially in urban areas, it is imperative that we take proactive measures to safeguard vulnerable populations, including young children, older adults, and those with chronic medical conditions. I urge all residents to take necessary precautions to safeguard themselves, their families, neighbors, and pets during this period.”  

In 2023, Baltimore City witnessed 7 Code Red Extreme Heat days and 2 heat-related deaths. Officials today emphasize the importance of residents taking necessary precautions to prepare for hot weather.   

Heat-related fatalities have outnumbered those caused by any other severe weather event in the U.S. over the past decade. It’s crucial to note that the effects of heat are cumulative, implying that individuals can fall ill after prolonged exposure to above-average temperatures. Particularly vulnerable adults, children up to 4 years, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions. During periods of extreme heat, there is the potential for increased mortality from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, and stroke.  

The Baltimore City Health Department recommends during times of heat that City residents:   

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you are not thirsty
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Reduce outside activities
  • Stay inside during the hottest time of day (11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
  • Seek relief in air-conditioned locations
  • Check on older, sick, or frail people in your community who may need help in the heat  
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for short periods of time  
  • Ensure that babies are sleeping safely. The risk for sleep-related infant death increases when babies overheat 
    • People should place their infants alone, on their back, in a crib, and with no blankets, pillows, or sheets (a flat sheet covering the crib mattress is fine) 
    • No head coverings 
    • Co-sleeping (sharing a sleeping surface with a caregiver or another child) is especially dangerous
  • Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke: confusion; nausea; light-headedness; high body temperature with cool and clammy skin; hot, dry, flushed skin; and rapid or slowed heartbeat. Seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms occur

BCHD also recommends, that to keep pets safe: 

  • Never leave your pets in a parked car. Keep them safe and leave them at home. Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise extremely quickly. Even on a 70-degree day, the inside of a car can rise to a deadly 110 degrees!   
  • Provide ample shade and water. Anytime your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water  
  • Limit exercise on hot days. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on grass if possible
  • Watch for signs of heatstroke. Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Signs include heavy panting, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, vomiting, unable to get up, and a deep red or purple tongue. If you believe your pet is suffering from heatstroke, take him or her to a veterinarian immediately 

 Additional steps to prepare your home if you don’t have air conditioning:  

  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, or awnings  
  • Considering making temporary window reflectors, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard, to place between windows and drapes
  • With temperatures starting to climb, consider readying your household for summer by purchasing a window air conditioner and insulation  
  • Take a cool bath and stay hydrated when temperatures increase indoors 

City residents who want information on cooling centers on Code Red Extreme Heat Alert days can call 311. Individuals having a heat-related medical emergency or who are experiencing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke should call 911.  

Information on declared Code Red Extreme Heat Alert days will be shared on the Health Department’s website, Health Department social media (Twitter: @Bmore_Healthy and Facebook: @BaltimoreHealth), the Baltimore City 311 line, and with local news media.  

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