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Last updated: 5/20/19

Keeping cool in the heat

During periods of extreme heat, we'll declare a heat emergency and open community centers as cooling centers. Please check on your neighbors and the elderly to make sure they're okay.

Need to know terms
  • Heat Advisory: Daytime heat indices of 95°F to 104° F for two days or more.
  • Excessive Heat Warning: Daytime heat indices of 105° F for two or more hours.
  • Heat Emergency: Three or more days of temperatures above 95° F.
Still have questions? Contact:
Emergency Management
1 City Hall Square
Room 204
Boston, MA 02201
United States

Places to stay cool

BCYF Community Centers become cooling centers during a heat emergency. Anyone can cool off inside with air conditioning. If you're not a member, you must complete an enrollment form to use our pools. You can complete and print out the form ahead of time.

Watch: Summer safety tips

Emergency tips and facts

Tips and facts

Never leave children and pets alone in cars. Cars heat up quickly even if the windows are slightly open.

  • If you see an animal locked in a car on a hot day, find the owner as soon as possible. If you can't find the owner, call 911 or contact Animal Care and Control.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out. Don't forget about sleeping children.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in your car seat to remind yourself when a child is in the car. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in front with the driver. 

Infants, children, people age 65 and older, and the homeless are at greater risk for heat-related illness. Other high risk people are those who are physically ill or who take certain medications.

  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Watch infants and young children often.
  • Plan to check on family, friends, neighbors, and the elderly who do not have air conditioning or who are often alone. 
  • Contact the Elderly Commission at 617-635-4366 or 311 for after hours help.
  • If you observe someone who appears passed out, call 911 immediately. 

Drink more water no matter how active you are. Avoid alcohol and sugary or caffeinated drinks. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

Warning: If your doctor limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink when it's hot.

Adults and children should use sunscreen containing an SPF-15 or higher and wear protective, loose-fitting clothing, including long-sleeve shirts and hats.

A few hours in air conditioning can help your body stay cool when you go back into the heat. Electric fans will not prevent heat-related illness.

  • Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned place if possible.
  • If your home doesn't have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library.
  • Take a cool shower or bath. 
  • Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

  • If you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint, stop all activity and find shade or a cool area to rest. Call 911 immediately if your symptoms don't improve.
  • Use a buddy system when working outside.
  • Let your body acclimate to the heat before you try to exercise.
  • Use child window guards in addition to screens on any open window on the second story or above. 
  • Install window air conditioners securely and insulate if necessary.
  • Check air-conditioning ducts for proper insulation.
  • Reflect heat back outside by installing temporary window reflectors between windows and drapes, such aluminum foil-covered cardboard.
  • Weather-strip doors and sills to keep cool air in.
  • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a home by up to 80 percent.
  • Keep storm windows up all year.