School helps provide relief during period of extreme heat

August 01, 2011
There’s more than one kind of Carolina fan.Over the last couple weeks, the fans being collected on the Carolina campus are those that blow cooling, maybe even life-saving, air on people struggling in the state’s record-breaking heat.

Bill Gentry (left) presents donated fans to Orange County (N.C.) Emergency Services director, Col. Frank Montes de Oca.

Bill Gentry (left) presents donated fans to Orange County (N.C.) Emergency Services director, Col. Frank Montes de Oca.

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health is leading the “Carolina Fans Initiative,” asking faculty, staff and students across campus to donate box fans. The school, in collaboration with Orange County Emergency Management and its heat awareness campaign, is collecting the fans for the Orange County (N.C.) Department of Social Services, to be distributed to qualified applicants throughout the county.

“The oppressive heat we’re enduring is a serious public health threat,” said Bill Gentry, director of the community preparedness and disaster management program in the school’s health policy and management department. “This kind of heat is dangerous, especially for the elderly, small children and people in poor health. After a disaster, people are always stopping by my office wanting to know how they can help. Well, here’s an opportunity to help prevent a disaster from happening – right in our own county.”

Between 1979 and 2003, more than 330 people died in the U.S. each year from exposure to extreme heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many more face health complications from the heat.

The Carolina Fans Initiative will continue as long as it is needed, Gentry said.

“We still have the heat of August and September ahead of us,” he said, “and we’ll persist until this need is met.”

Gentry engaged local fire stations and other community locations to serve as drop-off points for donations. On the first day of the initiative, the public health school collected 33 fans. To date, the count is more than 150.

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UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or Those interested in making a donation may contact Bill Gentry at or (919) 966-4228. Those on campus may bring new box fans to 115 Rosenau Hall or 1106 McGavran-Greenberg Hall.
Off-campus drop-off sites include The William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education (100 Friday Drive); Chapel Hill Fire Station #3 (1615 E. Franklin Street); Carrboro Fire Station (301 W. Main Street); and Carrboro Fire Station #2 (1411 Homestead Road).