Heat Wave: info from Allegheny County

Allegheny County Emergency Services today announced the opening of more cooling centers throughout the area in response to temperatures forecasted to be in the mid to high 90s and heat indices predicted to be more than 100 degrees for the next several days. Emergency Services will issue updates if additional cooling centers open. An updated list of centers is also available on the Allegheny County website at www.alleghenycounty.us.

There are six cooling centers in Pittsburgh:

Brookline:  Seton Center, 1900 Pioneer Ave.  July 21-22, 7 a.m-9 p.m.  For information, call 412-344-4777.

East Liberty:  Lemington Community Center, 1701 Lincoln Ave.  July 21-22, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.  For information, call 412-362-7301.

Lawrenceville:  Stephen Foster Comm. Center, 286 Main St.  July 21-22, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.  For information, call 412-621-3342.

Squirrel Hill:  Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave.  July 21-22, 9 a.m.- 9:30 p.m.  For more information, call 412-521-8010.

Homewood:  Citiparks Homewood Center, 7321 Frankstown Rd.  July 21-22 8 a.m.-7 p.m.;  July 23-24  11 a.m.-7 p.m.  For information call 412-244-4190.

Knoxville:  Elder-Ado Knoxville Sr. Center, 320 Brownsville Rd.  July 21-22  7:30 a.m.-6 p.m.  For information call 412-381-6900.

The Allegheny County Health Department is warning that the extreme heat and humidity forecast for the next few days can pose serious health problems for the elderly, infants and children up to the age of four, the overweight, people who work or exercise outdoors, and people with heart or respiratory problems.

Heat-related illness occurs when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but sometimes this cooling mechanism breaks down and the body temperature rises rapidly, triggering heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Warning signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. Seek medical attention immediately, if the symptoms are severe or if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure. Otherwise, help the victim cool off, and seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.

Heat stroke, a more serious and potentially life-threatening condition, occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature and the sweating mechanism fails. Warning signs may include an extremely high body temperature (above 103° F); red, hot and dry skin, due to no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea, confusion; and unconsciousness. Death or permanent disability may result without emergency treatment. Cool the victim rapidly by any means available until paramedics arrive.

These precautions are recommended to minimize the risk of heat-related illness:

— Stay cool indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. Fans don’t help much when temperatures are in the 90s. A cool bath or shower is a more effective way to cool off, if you don’t have air conditioning. Better yet, visit someplace that does, such as a senior center, theater, mall or neighbor’s house.

— Drink plenty of fluids, at least eight cups a day, but not alcoholic or caffeinated drinks which actually cause you to lose more fluids. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals, which add heat to your body.

— Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. A wide-brimmed hat provides shade and helps keep the head cool. Sunscreen can prevent sunburn, which can affect your body’s ability to cool itself and also cause a loss of body fluids.

— Avoid strenuous physical activity, particularly during the hotter part of the day.

— Never leave a child, or a pet, in a vehicle alone on a hot day. A child may become disoriented in just five minutes, unconscious in 10 and brain-damaged in 20.

— Use the buddy system and check on the elderly and the infirm who do not have air conditioning and are less able to take care of themselves.

Health Department urges the public to report certain dead birds for testing as part of West Nile virus surveillance

As part of its annual surveillance program for the West Nile virus, the Allegheny County Health Department is calling on the public to report and submit certain dead birds for testing throughout the summer and early fall.

The reporting and testing of dead birds can help health officials track West Nile and determine where to focus mosquito control efforts.  Mosquitoes and birds pass the virus to each other via mosquito bites.  It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes but not by birds carrying the virus.

The public is asked to report and in some cases submit seven bird species for testing — crows, blue jays, hawks, owls, falcons, ravens and buzzards.  In addition, five or more dead birds of any species found in one location should also be reported.

Dead birds can be reported to the Allegheny County Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD or by visiting its web site at www.achd.net.

No birds have tested positive since 2006.  One did that year, 3 each in 2005 and 2004, 5 in 2003 and 162 in 2002, when West Nile first appeared here in birds, mosquitoes and humans.

The surveillance program also includes the trapping and testing of mosquitoes.  Fifty-eight mosquito samples tested positive last year, but only 2 in 2009, 28 in 2008, 19 in 2007, 11 in 2006, 28 in 2005, 3 in 2004, 16 in 2003 and 34 in 2002.

No human illnesses have occurred since 2007.  One each occurred in 2007 and 2006, 6 in 2005, none in 2004, 10 in 2003 and 22 in 2002.  No deaths have been reported since four victims died in 2002.

About 80% of those infected with West Nile do not get sick.  When symptoms occur, they are usually mild and may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash.

Less than one percent of those infected with West Nile develop serious illness, such as encephalitis, which can be life-threatening.

Allegheny County Marbles Tournament Underway through Saturday

The Allegheny County Marbles Tournament kicks off today, Thursday, June 1, and continues through Saturday, June 4, in the Courtyard of the Allegheny County Courthouse. The tournament begins at 2:00 p.m. today, and Friday’s play also starts at 2:00 p.m. The finals will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The winners will qualify to compete in the 88th National Marbles Championship in Wildwood, N.J., from June 20 through 24.

Allegheny County’s Marbles Program has a produced a number of national champions. In 2010, Penelope Bauer of Pittsburgh, won the girls national championship, and Bailey Narr of Pittsburgh secured the title of girls national runner-up. In 2008, John Leffakis of Lawrenceville was crowned the boys national champion and Amber Ricci of Glenshaw was crowned the girls national champion. Alexandra Bauer of Bloomfield was the girl’s national champion in 2007, and Keith Moss of the South Side was crowned boys national champion in 2006. Jamie Miller of the South Side was crowned boys national champion in 2005, and his cousin, Carly Miller, was girls national champion in 2004.

The marbles program is free to children and youth ages 14 and under. For additional information, contact Ed Ricci at 412-260-7278.

Senior Celebration in South Park May 11

The Third Annual “Senior Celebration in the Park” will be held at the South Park Fairgrounds from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11. The celebration is part of Older Americans Month, which was first proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Morning refreshments and enhanced boxed lunches will be provided at no cost to attendees. ACCESS Transportation will provide free rides to the event from all 58 Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging senior centers in Allegheny County. Additionally, accessible parking will be available in designated areas. Free shuttles will transport seniors from the parking areas to main exhibits and activities at the celebration. Seniors are encouraged to wear adequate sun protection.

This year’s theme is “Back to the Swingin’ ’60s” and will open with a spectacular dove release by the National Aviary. Participants will enjoy: early 1960s music and memorabilia; live music by the Pittsburgh Doo Wop Big Band; line-dancing lead by Pittsburgh’s dancing D.J., Roland Ford; and a “Celebration Idol” contest.  The  Allegheny County Department of Human Services anticipates that more than 2,500 seniors will participate.

Advanced registration is required through any DHS Area Agency on Aging senior center or by calling the DHS Event Line at 412-350-3428. The registration deadline is May 4.

Senior Celebration in the Park is made possible through the generosity of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dignity and Respect Campaign, Fifth Third Bank, DHS Area Agency on Aging, and the County’s departments of parks, public works and special events.

For more information click here.

Just another spring theme post

Are you clearing your house for spring cleaning? The question of what to do with unwanted appliances and other household goods always comes up this time of year. ACHD has a curbside pick up for freon appliances. From their announcement —

The Allegheny County Health Department and The Pennsylvania Resources Council are partnering to provide free curbside pickup and disposal of freon containing appliances. This Limited Time Offer of free curbside pickup of Freon containing appliances includes refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, water coolers, and freezers. No commercial appliances please.

To schedule your free pickup, call the Appliance Warehouse at 1-888-463-7366 or Parkway Heating & Air Conditioning at 412-279-6001 for the western municipalities.

Flier available here. Print and share with your neighbors!
The ACHD website has a number of helpful links to other kinds of recycling programs.

A free card that gives you a discount on prescriptions

Allegheny County launched a free prescription drug card program in June 2010 to help consumers cope with the high price of prescriptions. The County is making the free prescription discount cards available under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo), which offers average savings of 22 percent off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs.

The free discount cards may be used by all county residents, regardless of age, income, or existing health coverage. The cards are accepted at more than 300 pharmacies in Allegheny County. A national network of more than 60,000 retail pharmacies also honors the NACo prescription discount card.

Residents may print a discount card at www.caremark.com/naco. Cards are also available at Allegheny County government offices, Allegheny County Housing Authority communities, family support centers, Head Start child care centers, CareerLink offices, Goodwill stores, public libraries, senior centers, and some pharmacies.

County residents may visit www.alleghenycounty.us/alleghenyrx to download a card, locate a participating pharmacy, and find answers to frequently asked questions. Residents may also call toll free 1-877-321-2652 with questions about the program.

ACTION Housing Green

We’ve talked about many of the programs offered by ACTION Housing on BLOGSKI. So many of the programs offered contribute to minimizing energy needs. The organization has taken an additional step and has organized its programs, as well as adding several options, under its Green banner. From their site —

In response, ACTION-Housing Inc. has created ACTION-Housing Green as a way to offer energy conservation tips and partnering opportunities to homeowners, property owners, tenants, regulators, and utilities. We aim to expand home energy assistance practices, reduce toxins in the home, and help everyone lower utility bills. At ACTION-Housing Green, residents can learn to improve their energy efficiency and create healthier homes while developers can leverage best practices for green home building and multi-family housing energy conservation.

Weatherization plays a big role in any attempt to conserve energy, so it’s no surprise that there are links to their Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides low income residents with energy audits, home weatherization, and safety checks.

ACTION Housing Green also offers tip guides and educational materials for extending the knowledge of residents about best green practices as applied to energy conservation. All of this information is available to anyone regardless of income level.

Homestead exemption

You, as a homeowner, might be eligible for a Homestead exemption. This tax relief program is available to all homeowners, and is not dependent on income or age. From the Allegheny County site:

The Homestead Act (Act 50) is a program that reduces your market value by $15,000 for County taxes only. To qualify, you must be the owner and occupy the dwelling as your primary residence. The application deadline is March 1 of each year. You do not have to reapply each year. Once you have filed, your exemption will remain in effect until you sell/transfer the property or change your occupancy. In addition, if you have previously filed and qualified for the Act 50 exclusion, you are automatically registered for the Act 1 program. Get more FAQs

The deadline to file for a homestead exemption for a primary residence is March 1. A .pdf application form is available from the County site. If you have questions about the program, call the Allegheny County Assessments Office at 412-350-4600.

Nominating Petitions for May Primary Will Be Available Feb. 8

The Allegheny County Elections Division today announced that nominating petitions for all elected offices appearing on the May 17 Municipal Primary ballot, except statewide judicial and Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas races, will be available on Tuesday, February 8.

Nominating petitions may be obtained by visiting the Elections Division in Room 601 of the County Office Building located at 542 Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For questions or additional information, call 412-350-4528.

Candidates for statewide judicial and Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas races may obtain petitions by contacting the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections & Legislation at 717-787-5280 or by visiting www.dos.state.pa.us/bcel.

Due to changes in the Pennsylvania Election Code, petitions issued by the Allegheny County Elections Division in prior years cannot be used by candidates for this year’s election cycle.

County & City to Host “Shred the Packers Rally” on Thursday

Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh team up to host a “Shred the Packers Rally” on Thursday to rally the Steelers as they get ready to take on the Green Bay Packers for the Super Bowl XLV title. The event begins at noon on Thursday, February 3, on Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.

WDVE’s Val Porter will serve as emcee of the event, and Bon Journey and Kardaz will provide live music. Steelers mascot Steely McBeam will also help to rally the crowd. Free Steelers giveaways will be provided by the Steelers and Hometowne Sports. Black & gold schools, Thomas Jefferson, Pittsburgh Brashear, and Gateway, will help to get the crowd ready with cheers or marching bands. Art students from Thomas Jefferson will provide complimentary face painting.

Several businesses will provide complimentary food or refreshments on a first-come, first-serve basis, including: hot dogs, Silver Star Meats; ‘Burgh Iced Tea, Colteryahn’s Dairy Tea available at CoGo’s; and black & gold cookies, Eat n’Park. In addition, Coke and GSP will be passing out Coke and water as they promote their “Coke Cheers” contest, which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania and the Sarah Heinz House.

Those attending the rally are also asked to continue their generous support of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank by bringing a canned good, non-perishable food item, or cash donation.

For printable signs and photos of the Ground the Jets Rally, visit the Allegheny County Special Events Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ACSpecialEvents.