City of Houston activates heat emergency plan

Libraries, multi-service centers and community centers available as cooling centers 

HOUSTON – The City of Houston is activating its Public Health Heat Emergency Plan to provide resources to people needing to take refuge from the heat.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that will remain in effect through at least Tuesday evening. It expects dangerous heat to persist for the remainder of the week and into the weekend.

City of Houston libraries and multi-service centers will serve as cooling centers during their normal business hours weekdays and Saturdays. The Central Library downtown is unavailable as a cooling site. Community centers operated by Houston Parks and Recreation Department will open to the public after the conclusion of daily programming for enrolled participants.

People without adequate transportation to a designated cooling center during a heat emergency can call 3-1-1 to request a free ride. Transportation is only to and from the city cooling centers; transportation to other locations is unavailable.

The Houston Health Department encourages people to take extra precautions to protect themselves from heat-related illness and death. High-risk groups such as adults ages 55 and older, children under the age of 4, and people with chronic illness or who are either overweight or on certain medications should stay inside air-conditioned buildings between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

The department recommends people protect themselves and their families from potentially deadly heat-related illness. It recommends people:

  • Drink more water. Drink lots of liquids even before getting thirsty, but avoid beverages with caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar because these can result in the loss of body fluid.
  • Conduct outdoor work or exercise in the early morning or evening when temperatures are not as high. Outdoor workers should drink plenty of water or electrolyte replacement beverages and take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned facility. People unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration.
  • Do not leave infants, children, senior citizens or pets unattended in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are cracked open. Check to make sure everyone is out of the car and don’t overlook children who may have fallen asleep.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to help prevent sunburn as well as heat-related illness. Apply sunscreen, which protects from the sun’s harmful rays and reduces the risk of sunburn.
  • Seek accommodations in air-conditioned facilities during the heat of the day if the house is not air-conditioned: a relative’s home, multi-service centers, malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc.
  • Take frequent cool baths or showers if your home is not air-conditioned.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, excessive sweating, cool or moist skin, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, and a fast and weak pulse. People experiencing these symptoms should lower their body temperature by getting to a cooler place, drinking water, taking a cool shower or bath and resting.

A throbbing headache, red, hot, and dry skin (no longer sweating), extremely high body temperature (above 103°), nausea or vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness and a rapid, strong pulse are signs of heat stroke. If these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately and try to lower the person’s body temperature until help arrives.

People may seek air-conditioning in city multi-service centers, libraries and recreation centers, even when the Public Health Heat Emergency Plan is not activated. For more information or to find the nearest cooling center location or an air-conditioned city facility, people can call 3-1-1.