We’re not even a full month into summer, and much of the United States has already dealt with record-setting heat—not to mention the intermittent wildfire smoke from Canada. Between climate change and El Niño, this type of weather is expected to get worse during the remainder of the summer, as well as into the future.
This hot weather—especially when combined with stifling humidity—isn’t only uncomfortable: It can also be dangerous. People without air conditioning can get a break from the heat in cooling centers located throughout the country. Here’s how to find one near you.
What is a cooling center?
While extreme heat can make anyone sick, vulnerable populations including babies, children, older adults, pregnant people, unhoused individuals, and those living with chronic illnesses, are especially at risk.
In addition to drinking plenty of (nonalcoholic) fluids, wearing lightweight clothing, and avoiding strenuous activities, it’s best to spend time somewhere indoors and air conditioned during hot and humid weather.
Those without air conditioning can escape the heat in places known as “cooling centers,” which are typically public buildings like libraries, community centers, or schools, where people people can cool off—at least temporarily.
How to find a cooling center in your area
Most cooling centers are operated by state, county, or municipal governments. To find the one nearest you, call 2-1-1, text your ZIP code to TXT211 (898211), or visit the 2-1-1 website and enter your ZIP code. Cooling center locations are also often broadcast on local television and radio news.
There are also unofficial cooling centers, which may not have the designation, but provide public access to air conditioned spaces. Some, like indoor shopping malls, are free to enter, while others, like movie theaters, have a cost of admission. Museums are a toss up, given that some are free, while others have an entrance fee.