LA County to Review Cooling Center Protocols


Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - As the region deals with a lingering heat wave, the county Board of Supervisors is asking its staff Wednesday for an assessment of current protocols for activating cooling centers, possible ways of expanding the availability of such centers, and ensuring all communities are aware of ways to beat the heat.

A motion introduced Tuesday by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn stated that according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers, an average of 1,220 people die from extreme heat annually and in 2023, there were 2,302 fatalities due to heat exposure in the United States. The motion also notes that California was in the top five states for heat-related deaths, with 84.

"With excessive temperatures come excessive health risks, particularly for those most vulnerable," according to the motion. "Heat- related illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion, happen when a person's body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself, which can cause catastrophic damage to the brain and other vital organs."

The motion notes that access to clean water may be limited for some vulnerable residents, including the homeless.

One of the strategies mentioned in the motion is The Water Box, an installation that dispenses clean water through a treatment system connected to a municipal water supply.

"The Water Box has been an important resource by which to provide water to vulnerable residents in the five locations where they are available throughout the county, comprised of Skid Row and La Puente," the motion reads.

The motion also suggests the use of outdoor cooling centers -- completely shaded areas with natural or artificial breezes via the use of fans, evaporative coolers and misting tents.

According to the motion, county cooling centers only operate after two consecutive days in which temperature is perceived to be at or above 95 degrees in the Los Angeles basin, and 104 degrees in valleys, deserts and mountains.

The board directed the Department of Public Health and the Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Chief Sustainability Office, to evaluate existing protocols for the activation of cooling centers.

The departments were also asked to create a protocol and toolkit to provide extreme heat warnings and information in multiple languages on ways to address the impacts of extreme heat, including nearby cooling centers and transportation options.

In partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the departments will also identify funding opportunities to procure additional Water Boxes to be placed in vulnerable communities and additional opportunities to expand available cooling centers.

A report on the assessment and recommendations will be submitted to the board in 30 days.

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