Houston Health Department offers cooling centers for area residents affected by heat advisories

Houston residents can seek air-conditioned shelter at one of 11 multiservice centers as well as at various public air-conditioned spaces during heat emergencies.

Houston residents can seek air-conditioned shelter at one of 11 multiservice centers as well as at various public air-conditioned spaces during heat emergencies.

The city of Houston and the Houston Health Department offer various resources and guidelines for area residents during periods of extreme heat, including free transportation to air-conditioned spaces.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that is expected to remain in effect for Houston until 7 p.m. Aug. 8, and additional advisories are possible through the weekend, according to an Aug. 8 press release from the HHD.

Residents can seek air-conditioned shelter at 11 multiservice Beat the Heat Centers throughout Houston as well as five additional facilities that were recently designated as cooling centers through a city partnership with Harris County Precinct 2. Among the new cooling centers designated in July are the Kingwood Community Center and the Bay Area Community Center, according to a July 24 press release from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office.

"During these extreme heat days, it is critical that our most vulnerable have access to a safe and easily accessible space such as a community center to cool off," Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said in the release.

Multiservice center hours are extended during heat emergencies, HHD Chief Communications Officer Scott Packard said.

When the city activates its Public Health Heat Emergency Plan, anyone without adequate transportation can request a ride from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County by calling 311, according to the HHD release.

The HHD recommends high-risk groups—such as adults age 55 and older, children under age 5 and people with chronic illness—stay inside air-conditioned buildings during the hottest part of the day from 1 to 5 p.m. during a heat advisory. Heat advisories are issued when the heat index, which combines air temperature and relative humidity, reaches 108 degrees on two consecutive days, according to the release.

Fifteen people in Houston and Harris County died from heat-related illnesses in 2018, the release said.

In addition to remaining indoors, other HHD tips include increasing water consumption and avoiding caffeine, alcohol or excessive sugar, all of which can result in loss of body fluid. The HHD also advises any outdoor work or exercise be conducted during cooler hours, such as early morning and evening, while wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.

A list of multiservice centers as well as other public spaces to seek air-conditioned refuge—such as Houston Public Library locations, Houston Parks and Recreation community centers and Harris County Precinct 2 community centers—is available on the HHD website.
By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

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