Extreme heat or cold can injure or kill. Homeless persons are particularly vulnerable.
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
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 2014 plan is posted on the website of the D.C. Interagency Council on Homelessness: http://ich.dc.gov/node/849742.
DC government and several community-based organizations operate cooling centers (mapped here). Cooling centers open to all:
The Department of Human Services opens cooling centers for homeless residents; the list of the sites is on page 2 of the 2014 HEAT EMERGENCY PLAN (updated June 26, 2014)
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 2014 HEAT EMERGENCY PLAN (updated June 26, 2014).
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 19 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.