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Chair Fletcher & San Diego County Want To Help You Beat The Heat

07/28/21

 

San Diego County leaders want seniors, people with underlying health conditions or residents who are easily affected when temperatures rise to know there are free cool zones, fans, drinking fountains and other tools available to beat the heat. Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, today made the announcement  at the County’s Cool Zone at Spring Valley Recreation Center; he was joined by representatives from 211 San Diego, SDG&E and the County’s Aging & Independence Services.

“I want San Diegans to know their County is prepared to help them beat the heat,” said Chair Fletcher. “Every year our County team, together with our partners, develop plans to assist San Diegans in keeping cool during unbearable heat waves. We have cool zones, free fans and new this year is a partnership with 211 San Diego to help people without transportation get to cool zones during heat emergencies for free.”    

San Diego County has already begun to experience unseasonably warm summer weather, and in other parts of the country temperatures are significantly higher than usual, like in Seattle, Washington

East County -- where today’s news conference is -- is one of the hottest areas in the region. 

“East County is known for some of the highest temperatures in San Diego County. That’s why ‘Cool Zones’ are so important to me.” Supervisor Joel Anderson added, “I’d like to thank Chair Fletcher for helping us expand cool zone sites in east county to protect our residents.”

To ensure San Diegans are able to stay cool during hot days, there are many important aspects of the County’s Excessive Heat Response Plan. Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County Public Health Officer, along with members of the Office of Emergency Services and other partners comprise a Task Force that is set to meet again in mid-August to further update the plan, which is made available to the public here: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/hhsa/programs/phs/extreme_heat/

Cool Zones

The County of San Diego currently has 16 Cool Zones open at various libraries, recreation centers, museums and fitness centers across the region. These are free, air conditioned locations people can go to to get out of the heat, often they are used by people without air conditioning in their own home or people who are out in the heat for extended periods of time.  

Each Cool Zone is open on specific days of the week and times; click here to see a complete list. 

California Department of Public Health says their universal masking requirement is only applicable when the facility is solely acting as a cooling center.   If it also provides other functions or activities as part of its normal daily operations (like libraries, or in another case,restaurant) then it would just fall into the other general category for indoor public spaces (meaning only unvaccinated are required to mask).

If there is a public or private, for-profit or non-profit, organization interested in becoming a Cool Zone site, they should: Send an email to: AIS.ContactUs.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov and complete an application, click here to download and then email using address provided above.

“Cool Zones can be a lifesaver. Even short periods of exposure to high temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially for older adults” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Working or exercising  outside on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps.”

Free Fan Program

The County of San Diego and SDG&E have a long-time partnership to provide air-conditioned places for local residents to escape the heat, while lowering their household energy usage and helping to conserve energy. Those on limited income who are unable to visit a Cool Zone are eligible to have a free oscillating fan mailed to them. To be eligible, residents must not have access to an air-conditioned space at their home or apartment building. To request a fan, eligible individuals can call the County’s Aging & Independence Services at 800-339-4661.

“The most vulnerable residents in our region – those who are homebound due to their age, disabilities and health conditions – are at the greatest risk of heat-related illnesses,” said Tashonda Taylor, SDG&E’s vice president of customer operations. “It’s important that we make extra efforts to help these residents.”

New Transportation Partnership

The County of San Diego and 211 San Diego have created a new partnership to help people find and access the nearest Cool Zone location by dialing “2-1-1” during a heat emergency. For those who need assistance with rides, 211 San Diego will help coordinate transportation for those in need through a transportation or ride share program. Visit 211sandiego.org to find active Cool Zone locations or call 2-1-1.

“Cool Zones are important for older adults and San Diegans without air conditioning when temperatures reach dangerous levels, but not everyone can easily leave their home to escape the heat,” said William York, President & CEO of 211 San Diego. “We’re proud to partner with the County of San Diego to ensure more residents can use these free centers to stay cool and address transportation barriers they may face.”

Cool Zone Surge Capacity

In case of a major heat emergency, the County of San Diego is able to expand existing cool zones to “surge capacity” at libraries and recreation centers. If necessary, the County is ready to work with other local jurisdictions to add additional facilities. It’s better to have several Cool Zones operational in local communities rather than a couple mega sites.  

“Planning is a key element of emergency management and we take an all-hazards approach.  With the rise in extreme weather events, the County of San Diego stands ready to respond if faced with an extreme heat event in the region.” said Jeff Toney, Director, County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services. “Adding cool zone surge capacity to our heat plan will help us prepare for a mega heat event, such as the one that recently impacted the coastal communities of the Pacific Northwest.” 

Equitable availability of Cool Zones aligns with Chair Nathan Fletcher’s Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher is fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.

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