Keeping Cool in Hot Weather
Extreme heat can cause serious illness and can be life-threatening. Because of COVID-19, the City may be unable to open cooling centers this summer in the event of extreme heat. In addition, many of the places people may go to cool off––like libraries, movie theaters, and malls––may also be closed. That’s why finding ways to stay cool and safe at home will be more important this summer than ever before.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, but older adults, young children, and those managing other medical conditions are at greater risk. During extreme heat and periods of prolonged high temperatures, precautions should be taken to prevent illness.
Keep Cool Photovoice Project
10 Tips for Heat Safety
Stay Cool at Home
Stay Cool Outside
Keep Cool Photovoice Project
In 2020, we experienced one of the hottest summers on record. As climate change continues to warm our planet, our communities can expect hotter summers and more frequent and severe heat waves.
Somerville residents are taking action to protect their neighbors from the threat of climate change. This summer, as part of the Keep Cool Somerville project, residents used photography and art to share their experiences with extreme heat and the actions they took to keep cool.
Their images and stories will help shape strategies that the City of Somerville, community organizations and residents can adopt to better prepare for heat in the future. You can see the images they captured below and at outdoor photo exhibits at Kenney Park, Nunziato Field, and East Somerville Community School.
There's still time for you to participate! Help make Somerville a healthier, more climate resilient community by sharing your experiences with heat and what you did to keep cool this summer in our resident survey.
This project is a part of the Somerville Heat Health Assessment & Toolkit, a collaborative project between The City of Somerville and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The project aims to improve climate and health equity in the City of Somerville. For more information, please visit https://www.mapc.org/keep-cool-somerville.
10 Tips for Heat Safety
- 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.
- 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. Public water fountains are currently turned off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Practice sun safety. Wear sunscreen. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and loose-fitting, light-colored clothing when outside.
- 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.
- Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day. during the hottest parts of the day. Exercise in the early morning if possible.
- Turn on your air conditioner if you need it. 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.
- Keep up with COVID-19 precautions. Continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing even when the weather is hot. COVID-19 is still a real threat and we all need to stay vigilant.
- 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.
- Sign up for City alerts by calling 311 or at www.somervillema.gov/Alerts
- Call 911 in an emergency. If someone is showing signs of heatstroke call 911 immediately. Signs of heatstroke 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
Before a Heatwave
- 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 A/C
- 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 A/C units are sized for the size of the room they are cooling. An improperly sized A/C 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 A/C 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.
During a Heatwave
- 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.
- 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.
Stay Cool Outside
Tips for Staying Safe Outside
- 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.
- 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.
- Know what is currently open and closed in Somerville. Information on what businesses and City buildings and facilities are open can be found at somervillema.gov/covid19.
- 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.
Where to Cool Off
Because of COVID-19, the City may not be able to open cooling centers this summer in the event of extreme heat. Many of the places people may go to cool off - like libraries, movie theaters, and malls - may remain closed as well. Pools and splash pads will reopen with new safety protocols in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The State will be opening the pool at Foss Park on Friday, June 26 and the City will open the pools at the Kennedy School and Dilboy on Wednesday, July 1st.
COVID-19 Pool Safety Rules
- Outdoor pools are open to all.
- The indoor pool at the Kennedy School will be available to youth leagues and camps, and family swim will be available with restrictions. Only one parent/guardian allowed per household to adhere to the indoor limitations.
- Pool attendees must socially distance (remain at least 6 feet apart from persons who are not members of your household) on the pool deck, when in the water, and in restrooms. Locker rooms and changing areas will be closed.
- Except when in the pool itself, face coverings must be worn at all times by persons age 2 and older. Persons unable to wear a mask for medical or disability reasons are exempt. Face coverings cannot be worn in the pool itself for safety reasons, and swimmers should maintain social distancing in the water.
- Pools will have decreased occupancy.
- Pool hours will be staggered to allow for cleaning. New pool hours will be posted on www.somervillerec.com and, once they are set, will be available by calling 311.
- Swimming lessons will not be offered.
Water Play Areas
Water play areas will be opened with social distancing rules. In parks where the water play area attracts crowds that fail to observe social distancing measures, the feature may have to be turned off. To avoid the loss of these important and popular cooling and recreation features, we strongly advise all residents to learn the rules and adhere to them.
* 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.
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.
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 below, 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.
# of Persons in Household
Income Eligible Program
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.
Office of Housing Stability
Contact 311 to get connected to other city departments. Dial 311 in Somerville or 617-666-3311 if outside Somerville.
Have an Old A/C Unit or Fan?
Consider donating unwanted, but functional, A/C units or fans to those in need through exchange platforms like mutual aid groups, Facebook Marketplace, Buy Nothing Somerville, NextDoor, Craigslist, and others. You'll help your neighbors to stay safe and comfortable, avoid paying disposal fees, and reduce waste by giving these appliances a new life!
Donate to the Somerville Cares Fund
Many Somerville residents are facing difficult financial situations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Somerville Cares Fund supports the essential needs of Somerville community members most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund provides emergency funding to Somerville residents and Somerville workers, regardless of immigration status, to help cover basic needs including, but not limited to, food, medications, rent, utilities, childcare, and other basic necessities. The fund is hosted by the United Way and administered by the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). Helping residents cover rent and utilities will provide for a critical need.
All donations, no matter what level, demonstrate Somerville’s resilience in support of our diversity and our strength. To make a donation and to learn more, go to www.somervillema.gov/SomervilleCares.
Make a Plan to Check In On Family, Friends, and Neighbors
Call or check in on those who may need additional assistance during a heatwave, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may not have air conditioning.
If someone is showing signs of heatstroke call 911 immediately. Signs of heatstroke include a body temperature over 103 degrees; 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.
Help Take Care of Our Thirsty Trees
We appreciate residents who can help out by watering any trees they see that have not been mulched and look dry. The best way to water trees is to water via a slow trickle over a longer period of time rather than a full stream of water for a short period. Should the drought continue and result in any calls for water conservation by the State, please do not water trees if it would violate water conservation recommendations.
- Eversource flyer on ways to stay cool and save this summer
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance on Extreme Heat
- CDC Beat the Heat Infographic
- CDC Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion Infographic
- Somerville Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
- Somerville Climate Forward
- The Wellbeing of Somerville Report