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Keeping Cool in Hot Weather

Keep Cool Somerville is an initiative to improve community resilience to extreme heat. The initiative began in 2020 as a collaboration between the City of Somerville and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to address the health impacts of climate change.  

In 2021, the initiative built upon the findings of earlier community engagement and research to focus on supporting community solutions to address heat. 

The initiative is advised by the Keep Cool Advisory Committee, an interdisciplinary group of city staff and community representatives, and was supported by a grant from the MAPC Accelerating Climate Resiliency Grant Program. Learn more about how to stay safe during a heat advisory below.  

Contact Information

Tips for Heat Safety


  1. Know the signs of heat-related illness. If you are experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, cramps, high body temperature, or a fast pulse, seek medical help immediately and move to a cooler place.
  2. Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of water when it’s hot outside, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Bring water with you when venturing out. Hydrate with water, NOT sugary drinks, caffeine, or alcohol.
  3. Practice Sun Safety. Wear sunscreen. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and loose fitting, light-colored clothing when outside.
  4. Never leave children or pets in a car unattended. This includes when running out for curbside pickup or other quick errands. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20°F within 10 minutes.
  5. Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day. Exercise in the early morning if possible.
  6. Turn on your air conditioner. Fans will not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature is above 95°F. If you are concerned about the cost of running your air conditioner, check if you are eligible to receive a discounted electricity rate from Eversource.
  7. Cooling Centers. Follow city social media pages and contact 311 for the latest information for cooling center locations. Sign up for city alerts by calling 311 or at
  8. Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who need additional assistance.
  9. Check the Heat Index. Which measures how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity levels. Take special precautions on days over 90°F.
  10. Call 911 in an emergency. If someone is showing signs of heat stroke call 911 immediately. Signs of heat stroke include a body temperature over 103°F; hot, red, dry, or moist skin; a rapid and strong pulse; and possible unconsciousness. While waiting for help to arrive, move the person into a cool area, help cool them down with wet towels or a cool bath, and DO NOT give them fluids.

Stay Cool at Home

During a heat advisory

Spend time in air-conditioned spaces 

  • If you are age 60 or older, have been sick recently, have suffered from previous heat-related illness or live alone, it is strongly recommended that you spend a few hours in air conditioning each day during a heat wave. 

Use fans safely 

  • Fans are not effective at reducing heat illness over 95 degrees. If air conditioning is not an option in your home, here are a few tips to use fans more safely and effectively: 
  • Use your fan in or next to an open window. Never use a fan in a room without ventilation to the outside.  
  • At night, use a fan to bring in cool air from outside. During the day, turn the fan around to vent hot air out during the day. 
  • Don’t use a fan to blow directly on you when temperatures are 95 degrees or higher. This can increase your temperature and lead to heat exhaustion.  
  • Don’t use a fan anywhere near water.  

Other tips

  • Stay on your lowest floor and out of the sun, especially If you do not have air conditioning. 
  • Take a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature. 
  • Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home. Try cooking with a microwave, crock pot, or toaster oven. Avoid running other heat-generating appliances, like your dishwasher or dryer, during the hottest part of the day.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors regularly, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, those who may need additional assistance, and those who may not have air conditioning. 

Before a heat advisory  

Keep the sun and heat out 

  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in on hot, humid days.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, or awnings.
  • Reflect heat back outside by installing temporary window reflectors between windows and drapes, such as aluminum foil-covered cardboard. 

Lower your electric bill

  • See if you qualify for a discounted electric rate from Eversource, which is available to customers with low incomes and who receive fuel assistance or benefits from other programs, like MassHealth, SNAP, or WIC. Lower electric rates can ease the financial burden of turning on your A/C.  
  • Take advantage of energy-saving programs from Eversource and Mass Save. 
  • Eversource Income Eligible Programs  

Get the most from your air conditioner  

  • If buying a new air conditioner, look for one that is ENERGY STAR certified and make sure it is appropriately sized for the room you plan to use it in. Mass Save is currently offering a $40 rebate for qualifying ENERGY STAR rated room air conditioners. 
  • Check your air conditioner and designate a “cool” room where you and household members will be spending most of your time. 
  • Window air conditioner units are sized for the size of the room they are cooling. An improperly sized air conditioner unit will operate inefficiently and may be less effective at lowering humidity. The US Department of Energy recommends 20 BTU per square foot, as a rule of thumb. 
  • Be sure to safely secure window units and insulate any gaps between the unit and the window frame.
  • If possible, place the air conditioner on a north-facing wall that is shaded, so that it can run efficiently and effectively.  

Make a plan with your friends, family, and neighbors 

  • Plan ahead. If you live alone, ask a friend or neighbor to check in on you when it’s hot out. If you live alone and do not have air conditioning in your home, make a plan with family, friends, or neighbors for how you will cool off during a heat wave. 
  • If you know someone who lives alone, offer to check in on them and help them make an extreme heat plan.  

Consider installing air source heat pumps 

  • If you’re looking for a more permanent cooling solution, consider installing an air source heat pump, which can provide efficient cooling and heating. Find out more about air source heat pumps here


Stay Cool Outside

During a heat advisory

Drink plenty of water

  • Bring a water bottle with you when heading outside. Public water fountains are currently turned off to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • Drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Practice sun safety

  • Wear sunscreen.  
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and loose-fitting, light-colored clothing when outside. Light colors reflect heat and sunlight and help maintain normal body temperature.
  • Consider carrying an umbrella if you will be spending time in unshaded areas.  

Other tips

  • Limit exercise to the early morning. Avoid physical exertion during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Be cautious when working outdoors: Heat Stress in the Workplace (NIOSH)
  • Choose shady walking and cycling routes. Seek out shade and take a break if you start to feel overheated.
  • Plan ahead. Capacity limitations in stores might mean that you have to wait in line outside in the sun when you go shopping. Take the precautions in this list and try to plan shopping trips to busy locations in the early morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Protect your pets.
    • Stick to shady areas when walking to avoid hot surfaces and protect your pet’s paws. Watch for signs of discomfort.
    • Make sure your pets have plenty of water and never leave them outside unattended for extended periods of time.
    • Never leave pets unattended in a car.


Outdoor Splash Pads in Somerville (Flyer)

Map of Parks in Somerville with Water Features

* Please note that both outdoor pools in Somerville have capacity limits and residents are advised to seek out alternatives rather than wait in the sun if the pools are full.

Get Help

Utility Bill Assistance
Paying for the added cost of running air conditioning in the summer can be a financial burden. There are several programs available to help lower your energy usage and electric bills.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, note that Eversource is:

  • Suspending disconnection of service for non-payment
  • Eliminating late payment charges

Income Eligible Programs 
Weatherization and Appliance Management (Swap Out)
Community Action Programs Inter-City (CAPIC), a local nonprofit organization, administers the income eligible weatherization and appliance management programs for Somerville. You could receive:

  • A replacement window A/C unit
  • A replacement dehumidifier
  • ENERGY STAR certified LED light bulbs
  • And more energy saving devices.  

This program is currently being offered remotely and products can be delivered directly to your home without requiring an in-person visit. Check your eligibility in the table below.  

Contact 617-884-6130 to schedule an appointment. CAPIC is currently operating remotely so please be prepared to leave a detailed message. Someone from CAPIC will return your phone call.  

More income-eligible programs and home energy programs (for renters and owners) are listed here.
Discounted Electric and Natural Gas Rates
Eversource and National Grid offer discounted electric and natural gas rates to qualifying customers. Residential customers with incomes below the levels listed in the table below and who receive benefits from another program (e.g., LIHEAP/fuel assistance, SNAP, SSI, MassHealth, public or subsidized housing, Head Start, WIC) may be eligible. The Eversource discount rate is applied to your electric bill and does not affect your enrollment in the Somerville Community Choice Electricity Program or other competitive electric supply program. If you heat with electricity, let Eversource know because you may be entitled to an even lower rate. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply here. City social workers at the Health and Human Services Department (for residents 18 to 59 years old) and at the Council on Aging (ages 60 and above) can help you enroll.

Payment Plans and Eversource New Start
If you have overdue portions of your bill, reach out to Eversource and they will work with you to spread out payments. If you meet the income eligibility requirements, you may also qualify for Eversource’s New Start program. Through this program, Eversource will work with you to set a monthly budget payment based on your average monthly bill. If you make on-time monthly payments, Eversource will forgive a portion of your past due balance. Find out more here or call Eversource at 800-592-2000.

No-Cost Home Energy Assessment
Anyone who pays an Eversource electric bill, regardless of income, is eligible to schedule a no-cost virtual home energy assessment. With the home energy assessment, you will receive no-cost energy-saving products shipped directly to your door. Products include:

  • LED light bulbs
  • Low-flow showerheads
  • Efficient thermostats
  • Faucet aerators
  • Advanced power strips.

You will also learn about other ways to lower your energy usage and rebates on qualifying energy-efficient cooling, heating, and water heating equipment. Call 1-866-527-SAVE (7283) to schedule your virtual assessment.  

Get Assistance from City Departments
Council on Aging
Older adults who are looking for assistance staying cool at home this summer should reach out to the Somerville Council on Aging. Contact (617) 625-6600 ext 2300.

Housing Division
This Housing Division webpage offers information resources for renters, landlords, and homeowners. The webpage also links to the City’s zero-interest home improvement loans for income-qualifying households. Learn more at

Office of Housing Stability 
If you are at risk of losing your housing or experiencing other housing issues, reach out to the Office of Housing Stability. Complete this referral form to get assistance.  

Other Departments
Contact 311 to get connected to other city departments. Dial 311 in Somerville or 617-666-3311 if outside Somerville.


Community Projects

In the summer of 2021, we built upon these findings. Six Somerville organizations received grants to pilot projects improving resilience to extreme heat that summer. The Community Projects Grant Program had three goals:

  1. Build capacity for collaborative heat resilience planning and action among residents, community organizations, and City staff.
  2. Learn community concerns and preferred solutions for longer-term planning.
  3. Reduce heat health risk and discomfort for vulnerable Somerville residents during the summer of 2021.

The Keep Cool Somerville team developed a Cooling Strategies Toolkit as a resource for the City and for community groups to inspire and guide local heat preparedness activities. Grant applicants were encouraged, but not required, to draw on the Toolkit for inspiration.  

As a result:

  • 7 families received utility bill assistance.
  • 35 air conditioning units and 150 electric fans were distributed.
  • 100 cooling kits with hats, insulated lunchboxes and water bottles were distributed.
  • Fans, sprinklers, and cooling structures were purchased for South Street Farm and several school gardens.
  • Chuckie Harris Park attracted families with the “Mistery Machine” cooling installation, including cooling mist, music, and animation.
  • Public awareness of climate-driven heat was increased.

Please visit this page for project highlights from Bent/Haus Arts, Clarendon Hill Towers, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Groundwork Somerville, the SomerFresco team, and the Somerville Housing Authority. You may read the final report here.  

Fact sheets are available here in multiple languages:


If you need assistance with the application or have any questions, please contact:

Emily Sullivan
Climate Change Program Manager
Office of Sustainability and Environment
City of Somerville






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