Extreme heat: How to find cooling centers during dangerously high temperatures in Philadelphia

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
People find ways to stay cool as excessive heat blankets the area
People find ways to stay cool as excessive heat blankets the area

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Extreme heat can be dangerous, and even life-threatening, for those without a way to cool down.

The City of Philadelphia has an interactive map showing residents where they can go to get relief from rising temperatures.

It includes locations for recreation centers, senior centers (for those age 60+), libraries, public spraygrounds and public pools.

You can find the map for Philadelphia's cooling centers here.

The city also has an online 'Extreme Heat Guide' with information on how to sign up for emergency alerts from the city, getting help with utilities, staying safe while working outdoors and more.

Here is a fact sheet from the city about why extreme heat is dangerous, and what you can do to stay safe:

Very hot weather can make people sick, even healthy adults. Older adults, people who are pregnant, infants and young children, and people with some medical conditions are at higher risk.

You can prepare by learning the signs of heat-related illness and strategies to stay cool.

Signs of heat-related illness

Muscle cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness.

Symptoms may include:

*Heavy sweating.

*Painful muscle spasms, often in the abdomen, arms, or calves.

What to do:

*Stop activity and move to a cooler location.

*Drink water.

*Seek medical attention if cramps persist for more than one hour.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. People are most prone to heat exhaustion if they:

*Are 65 years old or older.

*Have high blood pressure.

*Work or exercise in a hot environment.

Symptoms may include:

*Heavy sweating.








What to do:

*Go to an air-conditioned space. On especially hot days, the City opens cooling centers.

*Sip cool, non-alcoholic beverages.

*Take a cool shower or bath.


*Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for more than one hour.


Heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability without emergency treatment.

Symptoms may include:

*Very high body temperature (above 103F).

*Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating).


*Throbbing headache.



If you see someone with these symptoms, call 911 immediately. This is a medical emergency.

Tips to stay cool

In a heat health emergency, you can visit cooling centers, pools, and spraygrounds. You can also call the Heatline at (215) 765-9040 for advice on staying cool and information on emergency services.

*Stay hydrated:

-Drink plenty of water. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

-Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.

*When you're outside:

-Avoid working, exercising, or playing outside during the hottest part of the day (usually noon to 5 p.m.).

-Slow down. Rest in the shade or a cool place when you can.

-Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothes.

-Wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella for shade.

*At home:

-Use air conditioners and fans. If you use a fan, make sure your windows are open to release trapped hot air.

-Use drapes, shades, or awnings in your home. Outdoor awnings can reduce the heat that enters the home by up to 80 percent.

-Take a cool shower or bath.

-Visit a friend with air conditioning or spend time in a cool place like a mall, library, senior center, or cooling center. Even a few hours in air conditioning during the hottest part of the day can help your body recover.


*Never leave older people, children, or pets alone in cars.

*Check on older adults who live alone.

Fire hydrants:

*Fire hydrants are for fighting fires. Opening hydrants to cool off decreases water pressure. This makes it harder for Philadelphia firefighters to do their jobs. It can also damage water mains. If you see an open hydrant, call the Water Department's emergency line at (215) 685-6300.

Help with utility bills

*These programs can help you pay your utility bills to keep your home cool:

-Neighborhood Energy Centers: Apply for bill payment assistance, learn how to conserve water, gas, and electricity, and get energy counseling.

-Basic Systems Repair Program: Get free repairs for electrical, plumbing, heating, structural, and roofing emergencies in eligible owner-occupied homes.

-Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF): Find grants to help pay home electricity bills.

-PECO Customer Assistance Program (CAP): Get a monthly credit toward your PECO bill.

Extreme heat events

During very hot weather, the City may declare a heat health emergency.

*In a heat health emergency:

-A special Heatline is open for calls: (215) 765-9040. Call the Heatline to get health safety tips and talk to a nurse about medical problems related to the heat.

-Cooling centers stay open later.

-Mobile heat health teams may be dispatched.

-Residential utility shutoffs stop.


f you think someone is having a medical emergency, call 911.

Emergency notifications

Sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia to get text and email notifications about heat and other emergencies. The alerts are free, but your wireless provider may charge for text messaging.

Code Red

During very hot weather the City can declare a Code Red to protect people who are homeless. A Code Red also affects pet care.

For people who are homeless:

-Call the outreach team at (215) 232-1984 if you see someone on the street who needs help.

-Call 911 if there is a medical emergency.

For pets:

*All dogs must have shade to protect them from the sun. If you do not provide your dog shade, you could face a fine of $500 or more.

*To report a dog left outdoors in very hot weather, call the Animal Care & Control Team (ACCTPhilly) at (267) 385-3800.