Multnomah County follows guidance set by the National Weather Service when deciding when to issue health warnings and open cooling spaces. We take into consideration not only how hot it gets during the day, but whether the nights cool down, how many hot days we expect in a row and whether it’s earlier or later in the summer season.
During most hot days, agencies will promote cool spaces such as libraries and city pools. But there are times when agencies will decide to open cooling centers. One difference is that cooling centers offer snacks or a meal.
Before you decide
CDC guidance on cooling centers and COVID-19 should be consulted by all organizations prior to opening a cooling space.
Opening a cooling space or cooling center takes a lot of coordination. Before you decide, find out if someone has already opened a cooling space near you. Visit the interactive map of cool spaces, contact your local emergency management agency, or call 2-1-1 to help determine if your space is needed.
If you find that there is already a cool space near you, consider spreading the word to promote it among people who might need that service, or volunteer to help. Also consider becoming a volunteer driver for Ride Connection.
Open a cooling space
Oregon weather is at its hottest from about 4 to 9 p.m. When Multnomah County opens a cooling center, it makes sure its staffed from 2 to 9 p.m. Some agencies open up as cool spaces after the normal business day is over, and welcome people to come in and cool down from 5 to 8 p.m. Here are some things to consider:
Make sure the space has robust and reliable air conditioning. The space should also be able to accommodate people with disabilities. Ensure that enough space is available to maintain six feet of physical distance between household groups, and limit the number of people who access the space accordingly.
Protective supplies and practices
Following CDC guidelines, ensure that adequate cleaning supplies are available for frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces. Promote good hand hygiene and face coverings. Consider verbal screening for symptoms of COVID-19 or temperature checks for all users, volunteers, and staff. If possible, establish a separate cooling space for people feeling ill.
Avoid activities that use shared high-touch materials such as toys and board games. Movies and no-contact games help create an atmosphere of trust and comfort, and keep kids happy.
Work with your local animal services organization determine how to safely allow pets in your space so pets don’t become a barrier for seeking relief from the heat. Multnomah County Animal Services Dispatch is at the ready to help with Cooling Centers’ animal needs. Contact them with any questions: 503-988-7387.
County cooling centers provide pre-packaged sandwiches. Cooling Centers also serve snacks such as individually-wrapped string cheese and granola bars. And remember a supply of napkins and plates. While bottled water is generally quite affordable, those plastic bottles can add up in our waste stream. Instead, consider using tap water and providing washable cups when you can. And have plenty of ice on hand!
Food safety practices
Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of shopping (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees)
Keep foods in the refrigerator
If food is mistakenly left out, discard if it has been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees)
Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, and perform a double hand-wash after using the bathroom, changing diapers, smoking, or handling pets.
Serve sandwiches on an individual basis, after determining what visitors would like. Do not allow visitors to grab sandwiches on their own. Norovirus and other significant viruses spread quickly.
Spread the word
If you decide to open a space of your own, Let people know!
Ask Multnomah County Health Department to add your location to an interactive map of cool spaces, by contacting Brendon Haggerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-988-9402.
Cooling Centers promoted by the County must provide services free of charge and with no requirements of visitors, such as promotion of religion or prayer. They are encouraged to follow recommended hours of operation, and stay open for all promoted days and hours of operation.