The extreme heat hits the homeless harder than most people, and can be especially detrimental to those with mental illnesses, the executive director of the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance said Wednesday.
Dan Straughan said an ambulance crew stopped Tuesday to help one of the alliance's day shelter clients who had collapsed down the block, partially due to extreme heat.
The shelter normally closes at 4 p.m., but has a contingency plan to stay open later if the temperature hits 100 degrees for two weeks. With more triple-digit temperatures forecast, Straughan said they may not be able to wait that long.
“If you don't have a place to be or a place to sleep, the heat can be debilitating over time,” Straughan said.
He said about 1,303 homeless people live in Oklahoma City, and 23 percent of them have a mental illness.
“Many of the medications to treat mental illnesses become less and less effective as core body temperature increases,” Straughan said.
If the medication becomes ineffective, it can lead to mental breakdowns, he said.
With 100-plus degree temperatures expected to continue through Saturday, the staff of the Emergency Medical Services Authority is expecting heat-related medical calls to continue. EMSA has responded to 32 calls since Monday, spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said. All of those patients were taken in good condition to medical facilities.
“I think this was the first heat wave of the year and people weren't prepared for it,” O'Leary said.
People should drink plenty of liquids and take frequent breaks when they're outside. People aren't immune to the heat like most of them think they are, O'Leary said.
EMSA responded to a heat-related medical call Wednesday morning. A construction worker who had just arrived at his job collapsed. He had heat exhaustion from working in the heat the previous days and it had built up, O'Leary said.
She said EMSA gets most of its heat-related calls between 5 and 8 p.m. when people do things outside after work or school and tend to overexert themselves or not be prepared for the extreme heat so late in the day.
The high temperatures are triggering air quality alerts for Oklahoma City, heat advisory warnings for most of the state and water rationing strategies.
Tuttle implemented its water conservation plan Wednesday because water consumption is exceeding water production. Groundwater is the city's primary water source, but that hasn't recovered from last year's drought, a news release reports.
Even-numbered addresses in Tuttle will be allowed to water on even-numbered days and odd-numbered addresses on odd-numbered days. City officials discourage watering between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., the release reports. They are working with Blanchard and Newcastle to buy additional water.