CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city’s ready for the heat wave, and is vowing now to repeat the mistakes of the past.
But even as he vows to get the word out about city services for the most vulnerable, he says people have a responsibility to check on their neighbors.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine asked the Mayor what he was doing to prepare for Thursday’s extreme heat, when temperatures could break a 31-year-old record of 101 degrees.
Emanuel pointed to the blizzard of 2011 — which slammed the city and stranded motorists on Lake Shore Drive during his campaign for mayor — as an example of city officials learning from past problems with dangerous weather.
“I asked for a review after the blizzard. What did we do right, what did we do wrong, what should we strengthen what we do?” Emanuel said.
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The mayor said that review gave him the confidence that city departments are prepared to handle extreme weather events, whatever the season.
The city also long ago learned its lesson about what to do in the event of a heat wave, after about 750 people died from the heat in five days. Since then, the city has regularly issued warnings when the city is facing extreme heat, and reached out to the media to advise residents to visit cooling centers, and provide other tips on staying cool.
On Wednesday, Mayor Emanuel trotted out Gary Schenkel, who runs the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, as well as several city and county department heads to describe what measures they are taking to prepare for the extreme heat.
“Residents can call 311 to request a well-being check, and a ride to a cooling center,” Schenkel said.
On Wednesday, people at the city’s natural cooling center – the lakefront – were already looking ahead to what they were going to do on Thursday, when the temperature could reach more than 100 degrees.
Jill O’Malley said she plans on “probably staying indoors, keeping cool.”
Julie Morita the medical director of the Chicago Public Health Department, said, “extreme heat and humidity are not just an inconvenience, they are dangerous and can be deadly.”
To help keep cool, officials advised drinking eight glasses of water a day; avoiding caffeine and sugary drinks; taking cool baths and showers; and wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, and a hat.
On the other hand, some popular ways of keeping cool, according to those who gathered at OEMC on Wednesday, could endanger others.
Water Department First Deputy Commissioner Barrett Murphy said residents should not open fire hydrants to stay cool, in part because doing so reduces water pressure in the area, putting nearby homes and businesses at risk if there’s a fire.
It also creates potential danger for anyone who tries to cool off by standing in the spray of water from a fire hydrant.
“Open hydrants place everybody in the neighborhood at risk. By these children playing in the fire stream, they can’t be seen by passing cars, and you potentially are creating accidents that could put lives at risk,” Murphy said.
But the key, according to the mayor, is for people to watch out for each other, especially children, the elderly and disabled, who are more vulnerable to the heat.