Thompson went through a stifling heat wave last week. Stores like Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire couldn’t keep air conditioners and fans on shelves long enough to stick a price tag on them, and the Canadian Red Cross set up a cooling station from July 13 to July 15 in the old Ilio’s restaurant location in City Centre Mall.
"The City of Thompson is planning to send out a public service announcement regarding the cooling centre, so we will leave that announcement in their hands," said Amanda Lauder, communications manager for the Canadian Red Cross in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, in an e-mail at 9:19 a.m. July 13. In fact, the City of Thompson never did send out an e-mail with such a public service announcement or post information about the cooling station’s availability on the city’s website.
Thompson is the only city in Manitoba so far this summer to get help from the Canadian Red Cross Manitoba Region Disaster Management Program in dealing with the extreme heat. For three days, from Friday July 13 to Sunday, July 15, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. the cooling station was open will be open in the former Ilio's restaurant location.
Inside the air-conditioned cooling station, patrons were given free bottled water, and a place to sit and relax, away from the heat.
Ellen Fitzsimmons, who works with the Red Cross in Winnipeg as disaster management training and education co-ordinator, was approached by local Canadian Red Cross representative Bobbi Montean, with the request to set up the cooling station.
“We're there to help people who don't have access to cooler areas,” said Fitzsimmons July 13, “people who don't have air conditioning in their homes.”
The Red Cross encouraged people to stay in the cooling station for as long as they need and they will not kick people out.
“If there becomes an issue of overcrowding, we'll look in to solutions for expanding, or we'll work with the city to find a larger space,” said Fitzsimmons, “right now we're thankful to the mall for donating the space.”
This is the first time that the Red Cross has set up a cooling station in Thompson, not surprising for a city that is more known for it's extreme cold temperatures than blistering heat.
Wal-Mart contributed close to 1,000 bottles of water to the cooling station and the Legion are bringing in ice. All the work done at the station is that of volunteers from the community and organizations such as Citizens on Patrol.
“It's amazing the response we get,” said Fitzsimmons, “almost as soon as we show up, people are asking what they can do to help.”
Fitzsimmons also advises that people keep eyes out for the elderly members of the community who may be living in homes without air conditioning.
“If you have elderly neighbours or know of people who might be staying in a house without air conditioning just check up on them to make sure that they're doing OK,” said Fitzsimmons.