Assessing Adaptation Strategies for Extreme Heat: A Public Health Evaluation of Cooling Centers in Maricopa County, Arizona
Preventing heat-associated morbidity and mortality is a public health priority in Maricopa County, Arizona (United States). The objective of this project was to evaluate Maricopa County cooling centers and gain insight into their capacity to provide relief for the public during extreme heat events. During the summer of 2014, 53 cooling centers were evaluated to assess facility and visitor characteristics. Maricopa County staff collected data by directly observing daily operations and by surveying managers and visitors. The cooling centers in Maricopa County were often housed within community, senior, or religious centers, which offered various services for at least 1500 individuals daily. Many visitors were unemployed and/or homeless. Many learned about a cooling center by word of mouth or by having seen the cooling center’s location. The cooling centers provide a valuable service and reach some of the region’s most vulnerable populations. This project is among the first to systematically evaluate cooling centers from a public health perspective and provides helpful insight to community leaders who are implementing or improving their own network of cooling centers.