NYC Urges Residents to Beat the Heat and Stay Safe During Extreme Summer Temperatures

As the summer months bring warmer temperatures, the New York City Emergency Management Department and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are urging residents to be aware of the hazards associated with extreme heat and take necessary precautions to stay safe. The city is particularly focusing on neighborhoods identified as high-risk areas for heat-related illnesses and is implementing measures to provide relief and support to vulnerable communities.

Extreme heat poses a significant threat to public health, with an average of over 100 deaths annually in New York City. Individuals without access to air conditioning and those with pre-existing conditions such as heart, kidney, and lung diseases, mental health conditions, substance or alcohol abuse, as well as older adults, are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects from extreme heat. The ability to regulate body temperature declines as people age, increasing their vulnerability to heat-related illnesses.

To address these risks, the city is updating public cooling systems and expanding existing programs to serve more residents during extreme heat events. By utilizing the NYC Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI), officials can identify neighborhoods facing the greatest health risks and allocate resources accordingly. The HVI provides valuable insights into the comparative health risks and allows the city to direct resources where they are most needed.

To assist residents in finding relief from the heat, the NYC Emergency Management activates the Cooling Center Finder when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory with a forecasted heat index of 95°F or higher for two or more days, or 100°F for any period. The Cooling Center Finder can be accessed by calling 311 or visiting However, individuals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or feeling unwell are advised to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Commissioner Zach Iscol of the New York City Emergency Management emphasized the importance of being prepared for extreme heat and taking advantage of the city’s free resources. He urged New Yorkers to develop a plan to protect themselves, their families, friends, neighbors, and even their pets. Iscol highlighted the impact of climate change, noting that longer periods of extreme heat are becoming more common and pose risks to both the environment and public health.

Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the Health Commissioner, stressed the preventable nature of heat-related deaths and emphasized the need for increased access to air conditioning for vulnerable individuals. New Yorkers without air conditioning can determine their eligibility for a free air conditioner or fan through the New York State Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) by calling 311 or checking online. The cooling assistance program includes households that meet certain income requirements, receive public benefits, have previously received a HEAP benefit, or have household members with medical conditions aggravated by heat.

New York State has extended eligibility for the cooling assistance program to include people living in public housing or receiving housing benefits or subsidies, provided they meet specific health qualifications. Applications for the program will be accepted until August 31, 2023, or until funds are exhausted.

Empire State building
Photo by Emiliano Bar

In addition to the efforts to address extreme heat, NYC Parks has launched the Cool It! NYC map, highlighting cooling elements across the city. The map helps residents locate outdoor pools, spray showers, water fountains, and areas with ample shade, allowing them to make informed choices for staying cool during the summer. NYC Parks also offers free swimming opportunities at outdoor pools and public beaches, and updates on their status can be obtained through the Notify NYC system.

The authorities are urging New Yorkers to check on their family, friends, and neighbors, especially older individuals or those with underlying health conditions, during heat waves and extreme heat. Encouraging the use of air conditioning and assisting those in need of relief is crucial to prevent heat-related illnesses. The Department of Social Services and community organizations are working together to provide assistance and support to vulnerable populations during extreme heat events. They are coordinating efforts to ensure that individuals who may be at risk have access to cool spaces and resources.

The Department of Social Services has implemented a Heat Emergency Plan to protect and assist New Yorkers in need. This plan includes outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness, providing them with information on cooling centers and shelters where they can seek relief from the heat. The city’s homeless shelters have also been equipped with additional cooling measures to ensure the safety and well-being of residents.

a young boy running through a sprinkle of water
Photo by MI PHAM

Community organizations and volunteer groups are actively involved in heat relief efforts. They are distributing water bottles, conducting wellness checks, and organizing community events to provide respite from the heat. These initiatives aim to foster a sense of community and support during challenging weather conditions.

The city is also taking steps to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious conditions that require immediate medical attention. Common symptoms include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea, confusion, and high body temperature. New Yorkers are encouraged to seek medical help if they or someone they know exhibits these symptoms.

To stay safe during extreme heat, residents are advised to follow these precautions:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and avoid beverages that can cause dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  2. Stay cool: Seek out air-conditioned spaces, such as malls, libraries, or cooling centers. If air conditioning is not available, use fans or take cool showers to lower body temperature.
  3. Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing that allows for better air circulation.
  4. Limit outdoor activities: Minimize exposure to the sun and avoid strenuous physical activities during the hottest parts of the day.
  5. Check on vulnerable individuals: Keep an eye on older adults, young children, and those with pre-existing health conditions, as they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
  6. Keep pets safe: Ensure that pets have access to shade and plenty of water. Never leave them in vehicles, as temperatures can rise rapidly and become life-threatening.

By taking these precautions and staying informed about available resources, New Yorkers can better protect themselves and their communities during periods of extreme heat.

Remember, it’s crucial to follow the guidance and recommendations provided by local authorities and health organizations to ensure the well-being of individuals during heat emergencies.