Cooling Shelters

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 25, 2010

County hopes elderly choose ‘cool shelter’ over hot homes

By John Howell Sr.

Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin has announced a plan to establish “Cool Shelters” to offer refuge from continued heat as July approaches.

The sheriff seeks cooperation from churches willing to open their doors to their air-conditioned facilities from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. daily. The cooled buildings would provide a place for the elderly and others who are without home cooling systems to seek refuge during the hottest part of the day, Griffin said.

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Griffin said that he is seeking at least one church on the north part of the county and one in the south part to be open each day, with duties rotating from church to church, on a daily basis. Radio Station WBLE has agreed to announce the daily host churches each morning, Deputy Sheriff Earl Burdette said. The host churches will also be listed at the newspaper’s Web site,

Griffin, Burdette and Panola County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Daniel Cole began working on the plan after last week’s high temperatures and a long range forecast that includes extreme hot weather for July. “It’s June … as hot as it is; we’re just trying to beat the heat,” the sheriff continued.

The officials hope to have the plan in operation by July 1, Griffin said.

Cistern Hill M.B. Church near Como has already volunteered to be one of the hosts, Burdette said.

The church also volunteered the use of its van to bring elderly people without transportation to the church for shelter from the heat, he added.

People seeking shelter from the heat need to bring their medications and their lunches, Burdette said. Water and light snacks will provided.

Deputies will respond to calls from residents who need transportation to the shelters, Griffin said.

The sheriff urged friends and family members who know about elderly people who might be suffering from the heat to call the sheriff’s office: 563-6230 in Batesville; 487-1112 in Sardis.

“Some locations, we’re going to know,” Griffin said. “We’re going to be knocking on doors, stepping inside and just checking on the heat,” he continued.

The Cool Shelters plan grew from a call for assistance from an elderly man on oxygen living in a mobile home hear Pope whose air conditioner had malfunctioned, Griffin said. The sheriff bought a new air conditioner, and took the malfunctioning unit for repair. If the old unit can be fixed, it will be returned and the new unit moved to another location, he said. However, realizing the extent of the need in the county, the officials developed the idea for established cool refuges in churches.

“We’ll have it if we need it,” Burdette said, referring to the possibility of continued hot weather. “If we don’t need it, that’s okay.”