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Home  |  News  |  Fighting the heat just part of their beat

Fighting the heat just part of their beat
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

COLUMBIA, SC - A manager at Allen-Benedict Court housing complex banged on the door of resident William Henry Romeo and shouted, “Mr. Romeo, the police want to see you!”
Romeo’s eyes brightened as he asked, “What for?”

Then he saw Columbia Police Officer Mervin Solone carrying a new air-conditioning unit up the apartment steps.

“I thought you forgot about me,” Romeo said.

Romeo received the new window unit Tuesday through the police department’s Fan the Heat program. Officers buy air conditioners and fans with donations and deliver them to the elderly and people with illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

As the heat index reached triple digits this week, calls to the police department for help increased, said Sgt. Ron Felder, who runs the department’s program. So far this summer, the police department has distributed 85 air conditioners and fans, he said.
Tuesday’s high temperature was 102 at Columbia’s Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport with a heat index of 111. The temperature remained above 100 degrees at 6 p.m., the National Weather Service reported. An excessive-heat warning was in effect because the high temperatures and excessive humidity put people at risk for heat-related illnesses, the weather service said.

Today is expected to be another scorcher as highs exceed 100 degrees. The temperature will drop — slightly — into the high 90s on Thursday. But forecasters are predicting highs to dip below 90 for the first time in weeks by Friday.

On Tuesday, Solone and Felder delivered air-conditioning units to two residents at Allen-Benedict Court, where the two-story brick buildings were built in the late 1930s, said Bobby Brown, the assistant property manager. “They can hold heat in the winter and they can hold heat in the summertime,” Brown said.

The buildings do not have central air-conditioning systems, so residents must buy their own window units and fans. Romeo, 68, told Brown he could not afford one.
He had the windows open and a small exhaust fan in one window to circulate air. Still, sweat rolled down his neck as he thanked the police officers for giving him the unit.

“That is going to do much more than those exhaust fans,” Felder said.
In another unit, Eva Gantt, 66, and Johnnie Neal, 71, had stopped by the Allen-Benedict Court office Tuesday morning to ask about receiving an air-conditioning unit. Earlier in the month, Brown removed an old window unit someone left in a vacant apartment and had it installed in their apartment. Now, the two have their own unit, and the used one will be reinstalled in the vacant building where new tenants are expected.

Before the air conditioners were installed, the heat kept him awake at night, Neal said.

“It got so hot I sat up all night,” he said. “It was too hot to sleep.”
Several other local police and sheriff’s departments provide air conditioners and fans to needy people. At the Columbia Police Department, Fan the Heat is just one program available for the city’s elderly residents.

Chief Randy Scott recently started the Assisting Columbia’s Elderly, or ACE, program, to help older people find needed services. Jim Swisher, who recently retired from the department, was hired to run the ACE program.

On Tuesday, he made the rounds at Allen-Benedict Court with Solone and Felder to see if the elderly residents needed any other services. Romeo took Swisher up on his offer and asked how he could find rides to his eye doctor in Lexington. Romeo is being treated for glaucoma.

Swisher said he would start calling various agencies to see what he could work out.
In the past, officers working their beats would help elderly people they encountered, Swisher said. Now, those officers can call the ACE program to help while they continue crime-fighting.

“People think the police are about locking people up, but it’s all part of our jobs,” Felder said. “Days like this when it’s triple digits outside, you want to get out and assist people.”

Source: http://www.thestate.com/2011/07/13/1896081/fighting-the-heat-just-part-of.html

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