Yadkin County Commissioners called an emergency meeting on June 28 to address the issue of senior safety during the heat wave that brought temperatures exceeding 100 degrees to Yadkin County.
“The reason we’ve called this emergency meeting of the commissioners is to try to be proactive about what may be a potential problem … here in the county due to this heat wave that is apparently upon us,” said Commissioner Chairman Kevin Austin.
Yadkin County Manager Aaron Church’s plan of action was for the county to procure box fans that can be available to residents 65 years and older. Two fans would be provided per household for eligible residents.
“We have procured 300 fans since 8 a.m.,” Church said. “We have 2,000 fans in a truck that can be here and then be returned if not used if that’s the board’s pleasure. All of the fans can be returned if they are not picked up.”
Temperatures reached 103.6 degrees on June 29 and 103.2 degrees on June 30, according to Weatherunderground.com.
“We haven’t had weather like this in a long time according to official sources,” Austin said. “The highest temperature recorded for the area is 104 degrees back in 1914, and we haven’t had any temperatures over 100 degrees since 2007.”
Austin said that it is important for the county to be proactive and address the issue now in order to save lives and to avoid stretching the county’s emergency service workers too thin.
“If I’m not mistaken, heat-related deaths outnumber deaths that are attributable to hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, flooding and earthquakes all combined in the United States,” Austin said. “None of those deaths are preventable; heat related deaths could be prevented. Forty percent of those deaths are citizens ages 65 and above, so that’s where we want to make our impact.”
Commissioners asked Church to develop a plan and policy to address what the county can do for the elderly residents during this dangerous heat wave.
Church teamed up with emergency services, the sheriff and the heath director to devise a plan. Church said that the Department of Social Services informed the county that there were approximately 6,000 residents in the county that are ages 65 and older. DSS believes that nearly half of that 6,000 are without air conditioning systems in their home.
Church said that the county has the funds already set aside in its fiscal year 2011-212 budget’s general assistance reserve to pay for the 300 fans that were purchased in advance. Church informed the board that a budget amendment would be required to purchase the additional 2,000 fans.
Church proposed that individuals wishing to obtain a fan would have to sign a form stating that they were either unable to find a fan for purchase or did not have the funds to purchase a fan. Those people would also be required to provide a driver’s license or a social security card for identification.
“If this weather is to happen, in lieu of determining everybody’s eligibility and whether they have money or not this form would be signed by the individual,” Church said. “We would go back and track and make sure that there’s no duplication. This form would require the individual’s signature to receive the fan and the county official’s signature.”
Commissioner David Moxley expressed concern that the county may need to provide the fans to individuals under 65 with disabilities or medical conditions. The board discussed the issue with the nurse supervisor and determined that those individuals are able to apply for assistance through DSS.
Commissioner Frank Zachary shared that he thought the policy should be more precise about the people eligible for the service.
“I think it needs to be a little more restrictive,” Zachary said. “We want the people who need them to get them. You could have a home with one person who’s 65 or older and 12 other people living there who are in their 20s and that one 65 year old is going to request a fan when there are other people in that household that could potentially purchase a fan.”
The board decided to change the wording of the policy to state that all members in the household must be 65 years or older to qualify for the fans.
The board discussed transferring monies from the general fund into the DSS Services general assistance line item in order to purchase the additional 2,000 fans. They agreed that it would be beneficial to have the extra fans on hand.
Commissioners voted to approve the modified policy as discussed and to authorize a budget amendment of $10,000. The vote passed 5-0.
After observing the turn out for fan pick up on June 29, the county decided to postpone its order of the additional 2,000 fans due to lack of demand. Church said that he knows the county still has at least 150 of the initial 300 fans left.
The remaining fans will be available in the Department of Social Services through the remainder of this week and the beginning of next week.
Various fire departments across the county and the Yadkin Rescue Squad may still have fans available at their locations. Contact your local department for more information.
Department of Social Services is located at 250 Willow St. in Yadkinville, and its business hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. .
Individuals who are home bound can still call the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Department and request the fans be delivered to their residence.
Residents wishing to learn more about this program may call the county manager’s office at 679-4200 and those who need home delivery service may call the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office at 679-4217.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.