Baltimore City Announces Beginning of Code Red Season


BALTIMORE, MD (May 16, 2016)– The Baltimore City Health Department today announced the start of Baltimore City’s Code Red program for the coming summer.

Code Red is a multi-agency effort to provide help provide cooling relief to vulnerable populations in Baltimore. Throughout the summer, City agencies provide public education to residents on the effects of sustained heat on health and perform outreach regarding energy assistance programs for senior residents and other susceptible groups through Community Action Partnership Centers.

“Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities and illnesses nationwide each year,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “Heat waves can be silent killers especially affecting those with limited economic means or with significant chronic illness. This makes heat waves a public health threat.”

A Code Red Heat Alert will be issued by the Health Commissioner when the forecasted heat index, a measure of air temperature and relative humidity that indicates how hot it feels to an individual outside, is greater than or equal to 105˚F.

When a Code Red Heat Alert is declared, staff from several city agencies including the Health Department’s Office of Aging and CARE Services, Mayor’s Office of Human Services and Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management will coordinate the opening of cooling centers around the city that offer air-conditioned space and water for residents without access to cool air in their homes. Cooling centers will generally be open at five Community Action Partnership Centerlocations from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and at six senior centers from 9 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays. A list of these centers is available on the Health Department website at

The 2015 summer brought warm temperatures but overall was relatively mild with only four Code Red declaration issued in Baltimore and one hyperthermia death in the city. Officials today reminded residents to take proper precautions to be ready for hot weather.

Each year, the heat kills more people than hurricanes and other weather-related phenomena combined. The effects of heat are cumulative, meaning a person can become ill after several days of exposure to above average temperatures. Older adults and the medically unstable are at an increased risk for developing heat-related illness.

During heat waves, there is a potential for increased mortality from cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and stroke. During periods of extreme heat, the Baltimore City Health Department recommends that city residents:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Wipe skin with cool water as needed
  • Reduce outside activities
  • Wear light-weight and light-colored clothing
  • Stay inside during the hottest time of day (11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
  • Seek relief from the heat in air-conditioned locations
  • Use a quality fan; circulating cooler air helps cool the body
  • Check on older, sick, or frail people in your community who may need help responding to the heat
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for short periods of time
  • Watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
    • Confusion
    • Nausea
    • Light-headedness
    • High body temperature with cool and clammy skin
    • Hot, dry, flushed skin
    • Rapid or slowed heart beat
    • Seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms occur

City residents who want information on cooling centers on declared Code Red days can call 311. Individuals having a heat related medical emergency or who are experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke should call 911.

Information on declared Code Red days will be shared on the Health Department website,; Health Department social media (Twitter - @Bmore_Healthy and Facebook -, the Baltimore City 311 line and with local news media.

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