Extreme Heat Resources
Extreme heat can be deadly, and it disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income residents. The COVID-19 emergency is making it harder to safely offer cooling solutions that municipalities have used for years. Many communities in Massachusetts are still determining whether and how to safely open cooling centers, splash-pads, parks, and pools, and plan for other outdoor cooling options.
MAPC has compiled a list of resources that may be helpful to municipalities who want to help residents stay cool—and healthy--this summer.
We will be updating these resources throughout the summer, so please check back for updated information.
Climate Vulnerability Analysis
COVID-Safe Cooling Strategies
The suggestions below do not represent an exhaustive list, but reflect what we have learned from conversations among municipal staff and staff from community-based organizations. We expect that you will be working community partners to identify the strategies most appropriate for your community.
- Distribute Cooling Care Kits that include information on heat-illness prevention, cooling resources, and utility and weatherization assistance, heat stress first aid materials, water, hand-held and wearable cooling equipment, etc.
- Distribute fans, air conditioning units, and wearable cooling devices to residents without access to in-home cooling and least able to leave home for their cooling needs. Some wearable cooling devices can function without use of electricity, in case of a potential power outage.
- Leverage COVID-19 safe isolation/quarantine hotel and motel sites to provide air-conditioned sleeping accommodations for people without access to in-home cooling.
Outdoor/Outside of Home Cooling
- Deploy temporary, movable shade and misting equipment for people who are standing in line at businesses, COVID-19 testing sites, and food distribution hubs and in shared spaces outside affordable and public housing sites. Some communities have also considered setting up hydration stations and mobile spray features to increase the availability of outdoor cooling.
- Implement physical distancing measures at outdoor public spaces, including parks, plazas, and pools. Activities might include posting signage, increasing cleaning protocols, installing physical guides to ensure people maintain physical distance. Municipalities may also consider employing additional recreation staff (including through youth employment) to supervise spray parks and other outdoor cooling features to encourage physical distancing. See CDC guidance on COVID-19 and parks and recreation.
- Adapt cooling centers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including by implementing physical distancing measures, health screenings, enhancing cleaning protocols and air filtration improvements. See CDC guidance on COVID-19 and cooling centers. Municipalities may also want to consider providing transportation to these facilities.
- Advertise and communicate low-cost, low-tech indoor cooling options, such as closing windows and blinds during the day, creating nighttime cross breezes, drinking cool water before feeling thirsty, and wetting clothing. Communications may occur over video, flyer, social media, word of mouth, etc.
- Encourage mutual aid, check-ins, and information sharing by collaborating with and providing information and training to trusted messengers in the community. Information may cover heat-illness prevention, cooling resources, utility and weatherization assistance. Trusted messengers may consist of caregivers, staff and volunteers from neighborhood and community groups, religious organizations, mutual aid networks.
Resources for Residents
These resources are specific to Greater Boston-area residents, but may be relevant in other regions and useful as a template for municipalities developing their own informational materials for residents.
Utility Costs & Air Conditioning
Community Action Agencies
Contact your local community action agency for information about utility bill assistance and/or free home energy improvements for low-income households.
The Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL)
BCIL is a "cross-disability organization and works with any person (regardless of age) who identifies as a person with a disability." BCIL helps people get low-cost air conditioning installed int heir home. Contact them for individualized assistance in making your home cooler and more accessible.
General Tips for Cooling & Heating
(Unrelated to COVID-19)
Massachusetts Extreme Heat Safety Tips
General guidance around heat related illnesses
CDC's Extreme Heat Guidance
General guidance around heat related illnesses and specific guidance for vulnerable populations, includes template social media graphics and infographics
Resources for Municipalities
Equipment Resources from the NERAC Regional Cache Program Guidance from the Department of Housing and Community Development
The Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC) Regional Cache Program makes equipment available to communities in the Northeast Homeland Security Region for a minimal daily fee. Resources available from sites located in Beverly, Framingham, and Lexington that could be used during heat emergencies include inflatable shelters, electronic message boards, generators, and shelter trailers. Municipalities outside of the NERAC region will be required to sign a Subscription and Loan Agreement Form before borrowing. Visit NERAC’s website for more information about these resources.
Departmental Guidance Documents
- Primarily focused on re-opening of offices, but has some guidance on affordable housing residents and preparing for heat, including recommendations to connect with municipal cooling centers and providing transportation and providing back-up AC for residents.
- It details a funding source ($10k per LHA) that can be used to make their office space safer to reopen and at the end it includes some suggestions for cooling. Besides this funding source, the LHAs also have Formula Funding and/or Operating Reserves, which they can access for costs related to cooling projects.
- Questions and additional requests for funding cooling equipment such as misters for exterior cooling should be sent to their DHCD Project Manager.
Includes recommendations for signage, keeping restrooms open, swimming pools, maintaining social distancing at parks, etc.
- For Federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions in the United States considering opening or operating cooling centers during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Includes screening people for symptoms, social distancing, air filtration, cleaning, communication, and PPE for people using the cooling center.
What Other Municipalities Are Doing
Stay Safe in High Heat
Hot and humid weather challenge your body's ability to cool itself. You or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness if you heat up too quickly, or if you lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of warning signs and symptoms of heat illness, and recommended first aid steps. Some of these symptoms and steps are listed below.
Call 911 in an Emergency
Always call 911 in a medical emergency, including heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
What You Should Do
- Move to a cooler location.
- Lie down and loosen your clothing.
- Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
- Sip water.
- If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
- High body temperature (above 103°F)
- Hot, red, dry or moist skin
- Rapid and strong pulse
- Possible unconsciousness
What You Should Do
- Call 911 immediately — this is a medical emergency.
- Move the person to a cooler environment.
- Reduce the person's body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath.
- Do NOT give fluids.
Call 211 for Emergency Relief Information
Mass 211 "connects callers to information about critical health and human services available in their community". If you need information about cooling centers or other emergency relief, but you are not calling about a medical emergency, call 211.
- Check the weather regularly to be prepared for especially hot days.
- Install air conditioners snugly, and ensure ducts are sealed and insulated.
- Use light-colored shades or blinds to reflect light away from your home.
Caring for yourself
- Stay well-hydrated.
- Carry a water bottle and refill it regularly.
- Pay extra attention to how you're feeling.
- Pace yourself or rest if you are feeling tired.
Caring for others
Check on your neighbors to make sure they're doing okay. People have saved lives in heat wave by taking a moment to check in on neighbors.
Make sure not to leave pets or children in cars, even if the windows are open. Cars overheat quickly on hot days.