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Listos California Launches ‘Stay Cool California’ Amid Rising Summer Risks

-Editorial

As we enter the summer season, hotter and drier conditions mean that Californians will likely face higher risks of wildfires, wildfire smoke, heat, power outages, and dangerous water conditions. These conditions pose significant challenges for California’s most at-risk populations.

This briefing, conducted by Listos California – in partnership with Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media – included resources available to help communities prepare for climate-related challenges. Known as the Summer of Safety Package, Stay Cool California is a comprehensive suite of preparedness messaging and materials that can be used to help communities this summer.

Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media will continue to keep California’s most vulnerable populations informed through an ongoing series of statewide ethnic media briefings in partnership with Listos California, a program of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). The briefings, provided by frontline experts, will focus on sharing vital information and resources available to all Californians to ensure their safety over the summer months.

Amidst a surge in extreme temperatures, Dr. Rita Nguyen, Assistant Health Officer for the State of California and Director of Population Health at the California Department of Public Health, highlighted the critical importance of heatwave alerts. She emphasized the underestimated dangers of heat waves, noting, “Heat waves such as this one kill more people directly than any other weather-related hazard.”

Dr. Nguyen pointed out that certain groups are at higher risk of heat-related health impacts, including the unhoused, outdoor workers, and those without air conditioning. “Older adults, pregnant people, infants, children, people with disabilities, those with chronic health conditions, and lower-income populations are particularly vulnerable,” she said. However, she stressed that anyone could fall victim to life-threatening heatstroke.

The rapid rise in temperatures, as observed in Contra Costa County, where it was 10 degrees hotter than the previous day, exacerbates these risks. “Sudden changes, prolonged heat periods, and nights without cooling increase the likelihood of health-related injuries and potentially death from heat,” Dr. Nguyen warned.

The Assistant Health Officer urged those without air conditioning to recognize the dangers and take preventive measures. “Heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are preventable,” she said. Dr. Nguyen detailed symptoms of heat-related illnesses, including heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea, and dizziness, highlighting that confusion, fainting, and vomiting warrant immediate medical attention.

In addition to physical symptoms, heat can worsen underlying health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. “When the weather gets hotter, there’s an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and complications from diabetes,” Dr. Nguyen explained.

To combat heat-related illnesses, Dr. Nguyen recommended three key actions: stay hydrated, stay cool, and stay informed. “Drink before you’re thirsty, avoid sugary, alcoholic, and caffeinated drinks, and seek air-conditioned environments. Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat alerts, and look out for vulnerable neighbors,” she advised.

For outdoor workers, Dr. Nguyen emphasized that employers are legally obligated to provide adequate shade, rest, and fluids. “Workers’ rights include access to potable drinking water, shade, and acclimatization monitoring during high heat,” she noted.

Sonya Harris, Senior Advisor of Listos California, emphasizes the critical need for preparedness. “Extreme weather events, like the recent wet weather, are transforming our landscape, fostering additional growth in wildfire-prone areas,” Harris noted in a recent briefing. These conditions not only heighten wildfire risks but also pose significant water-related dangers.

Reflecting on the state’s climatic shifts, Harris stressed the urgency of adapting to hotter and drier conditions. She credited Governor Newsom’s foresight post-Camp Fire in 2019, which led to pivotal funding for Listos California. Since its inception, the program has prioritized learning, community engagement, and collaboration with trusted messengers, including ethnic media and over 100 community-based organizations.

“Californians are eager to step up and enhance their preparedness efforts,” Harris affirmed. Recognizing the challenges many face in balancing work, family, and preparedness, she highlighted the initiative’s role in providing accessible resources. “Whether you’re a parent juggling multiple responsibilities or simply unsure where to start, Listos California offers practical guidance tailored to your needs,” Harris explained.

The program’s proactive approach includes targeted campaigns around seasonal threats. For instance, ahead of summer, Listos California partnered with Cal Fire to educate rural communities on home hardening and wildfire safety measures.

Acknowledging the positive response to Listos California’s initiatives, Harris underscored ongoing efforts to enhance language accessibility and community engagement. “We’re urging Californians to sign up for local emergency alerts,” Harris stressed, highlighting the critical role of timely information in disaster response. “Local officials are pivotal in guiding immediate actions during emergencies,” she added, urging statewide participation in emergency alert systems.

In addition to practical tips for staying safe during extreme heat, wildfires, and power outages, Listos California leverages social media and community outreach to amplify preparedness messages. Harris pointed to the program’s success in engaging diverse audiences, including younger demographics and non-English speakers, through tailored content and outreach strategies.

Andrew Ramos, Captain of the City of Sacramento Fire Department, is urging the public to prioritize water safety and fire precautions.

Ramos, who leads the Cal OES Swift Water Rescue Team 7, highlighted the dangers posed by the region’s bodies of water. “We conduct about 30 water-related rescues a year, which is a lot. Unfortunately, the majority of these incidents result in drownings. That’s why we’re here today – to increase awareness and emphasize the need to wear life jackets,” Ramos said.

Ramos explained that the current water conditions are especially hazardous. “The bodies of water now are colder, deeper, and faster than usual. We have some fast-moving waterways right now. Although they may appear safe, we urge extreme caution,” he warned.

Ramos stressed the importance of personal responsibility when enjoying water activities. “We need every one of you to be your safety monitor. Ensure your family members are wearing life jackets, can swim, and are supervised at all times. Even strong swimmers can find themselves in trouble due to hidden debris and slippery rocks,” Ramos advised.

To prevent drowning incidents, Ramos provided several tips: wear a life jacket, as he noted, “In my 30-plus years, I’ve never had to save a person wearing a life jacket”; ensure life jackets fit snugly, especially on children, and have a strap between the legs to prevent them from slipping off; stay calm in emergencies by breathing slowly and making your way to the shore if you fall into the water; and use flotation devices if someone is in trouble, throwing them a device rather than jumping in after them, and immediately calling 911.

Ramos also addressed fire safety as the region braces for high temperatures and dry conditions. “We’re already seeing a large number of grass fires in backyards and neighborhoods. High heat and low humidity make for a dangerous combination, and all it takes is a spark to ignite a fire,” he explained.

With the Fourth of July approaching, Ramos urged caution with fireworks. “Fireworks are particularly dangerous around dry grasses. Use safe fireworks, and always have a water source nearby to extinguish any sparks,” he recommended.

In addition to fireworks safety, Ramos advised residents to be prepared when mowing lawns or using any equipment that could cause sparks. “Make sure there’s a water hose nearby. Even a spark from a rock can ignite a fire,” he said.

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