You can save a life in extreme weather!

Extreme heat or cold can injure or kill. Homeless persons are particularly vulnerable.

In a medical emergency, dial 911.

Important: If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.

When you call 911, be prepared to answer the call-taker’s questions, which may include:
  The location of the emergency, including the street address
  The phone number you are calling from
  The nature of the emergency
  Details about the emergency, such as a description of injuries or symptoms being experienced

To obtain non-emergency help in extreme weather in the District of Columbia, contact the District’s Extreme Weather Hotline, 1-800-535-7252, or 311.

The District’s “Homeless Services Reform Act” requires the District to make public or private buildings available to provide shelter to individuals or families who are homeless and cannot access other shelter, whenever the actual or forecasted temperature or heat index rises above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This does not require the District to provide overnight shelter.

The list of buildings made available by the District (which they designate as “Cooling Centers”) is included in the District’s annual “Heat Emergency Plan.” The 2015 plan is posted on the website of the DC HSEMA: http://hsema.dc.gov/publication/dc-2015-heat-emergency-plan.

Here are some of the services put into place when a Heat Emergency is declared:

DC government and several community-based organizations operate cooling centers (mapped here). Cooling centers open to all from 12:00-6:00pm:

  • One Judiciary Square, 441 Fourth Street, NW
  • Frank D. Reeves Center (Lobby), 2000 14th Street, NW
  • King Office Building (Lobby), 3720 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE

The Department of Human Services opens cooling centers for homeless residents; the list of the sites is on page 2 of the 2015 HEAT EMERGENCY PLAN.

DC Housing Authority opens buildings as cooling centers for seniors who live in a non-air conditioned buildings. The locations are listed on pages 2 and 3 of the 2015 HEAT EMERGENCY PLAN.

United Planning Organization (UPO) vans will be on the lookout for homeless people to encourage them to get to a cool place. UPO will also look out for people suffering from heat-related stress and provide transport to a Cooling Center. If you need to call for transport, call DC Shelter Hotline at (800) 535-7252.

Department of Parks and Recreation operates spray parks and they are open from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm every day.

Finally, DC government posts alerts on the DC government home page during heat emergencies. The alert links people to resources.

Some practical tips: Residents and visitors in the District can keep cool by staying in shade or air conditioning and drinking plenty of water. When the temperature or heat index reaches 95, residents are encouraged to take extra precautions against the heat. If they do not live in an air-conditioned building, they may take refuge at a District swimming pool, cooling center, recreation facility, senior center or other air-conditioned building as outlined above. More information, and locations, can be found at www.dc.gov or by calling 311.

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