NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – As the drought intensifies impacting farmers and agricultural production across the nation, experts at Tennessee State University are looking for ways to help individuals cope with the resulting threat to human life and food safety.
Working with Extension agents in its 32-county service area, the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences has set up a Disaster Education Response Team (DERT), including a number of scientists, to educate residents on the care of senior citizens, keeping children safe, and how to preserve food during the intense heat.
“Certainly the drought is greatly affecting crop production and the economic impact will be felt a for a long time, but the effect of the extreme heat on humans, especially the elderly and children is another area that needs great attention,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.
He said DERT is targeting rural and urban communities with leaflets, brochures and holding meetings with parents, senior citizen centers and homeowners on subjects such as how to prevent heat stroke, keeping food safe during power outages, and how to avoid food “danger zones” when it is hot outside.
According to Rita Fleming, Assistant Professor of Health Education and a member of the DERT task force, 42 children died in the United States last year from heat stroke. While the number seems small, she said the reasons for most of those deaths were avoidable.
“Infants and children are sensitive to the effects of extreme heat and must rely on other people to keep them cool and dehydrated,” she said.
Just like children, Fleming said, senior citizens are also vulnerable, adding that those aged 65 and older are 12-13 times more likely to suffer from heat stroke than any other demographic group. She named limited access to timely media about weather emergencies, poor ventilation, and lack of access to air-conditioning as some of the major factors that lead to older adults’ death in extreme heat.
Power outages, another concern of DERT, are frequent occurrences during extreme heat, and can have a harmful effect on the food we eat, according to Dr. Sandria L. Godwin, Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences; and Dr. Suping Zhou, Associate Research Professor of Agricultural Sciences, members of the task force.
Their focus is on how to preserve food by keeping it out of what they call the “food danger zone” (food stored in the temperature range of 40°F and 140°F), during extreme heat or when there is no electricity.
Other members of DERT are Dr. An Peischel, Small Ruminant Extension Specialist; Dr. Fur-Chi Chen, Associate Professor of Agricultural Sciences; and Richard Stone, Research Assistant.
For more information about personal and food safety, visit: www.tnstate.edu/agriculture
Department of Media Relations
Rick DelaHaya: 615.963.5312
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With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as the Number One University in the state by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.
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Motto: Think, Work, Serve Established: June 19, 1912 Type: Public, HBCU Endowment: $41.7 million Chancellor: John Morgan President: Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover Faculty: 431 Enrollment: 8775 Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States Campus: Urban, 500 acres (2 km²) Former names: Tennessee A&I State Normal School for Negroes (1912); Tennessee A&I State Normal College (1925); Tennessee A&I State University (1951); Tennessee State University (1968) Colors: Reflex Blue and White Nickname: Tigers Athletics: National Collegiate Athletic Association Affiliations: Ohio Valley Conference Web site: www.tnstate.edu Phone: 615-963-5000
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