Toronto Public Health implements 'heat relief network' instead of temporary cooling centres this summer
Published Thursday, July 4, 2019 6:20PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 4, 2019 7:10PM EDT
People read as they sunbathe on a warm summer day at Cherry Beach in Toronto on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Michelle Siu)
Toronto Public Health says it is changing the way it responds to scorching hot weather with a new “all-summer approach.”
Instead of issuing its own “heat warning,” public health says it will eliminate duplication and will now “amplify” Environment Canada’s heat warnings via “social media, traditional media, and internal networks.”
“(Public health) will share early heat warning notifications from Environment and Climate Change Canada with partners, and will encourage all city partners and stakeholders to regularly check the Environment and Climate Change Canada website for forecast and warning information,” a report on the city's website reads.
As part of its new framework, public health says rather than operating cooling centres that are only open on days when heat warnings are issued, the city will coordinate a “heat relief network” of about 270 cool spaces that are in places where vulnerable people are located.
Spaces in the heat relief network include libraries, community centres, pools, drop-ins, and multiple private and non-profit organizations, such as shopping malls and YMCA locations.
“These are available during their regular business hours and will be actively promoted to the public seeking relief from the heat. Shelters and 24-hour respite centres are also available for individuals experiencing homelessness,” the report continues.
Dr. Christine Navarro, Toronto's associate medical officer of health, said the heat relief network was implemented so that the city had a "broader" network of cool spaces.
"Previously we had seven cooling centres that were only available during a heat alert. Now the 270 members of this heat relief network are available in every neighbourhood throughout the summer season," she told CP24 on Thursday.
A pilot “proactive outreach initiative” will also be implemented this summer, the city says.
“Staff with lived experience of homelessness will engage with people in areas around the drop-in centres, shelters, and 24-hour respite sites to provide information about tips to "beat the heat," refer people to nearby locations that provide a cool space, and connect people with additional resources and referrals as needed,” the report states.
Recommendations based on the results of the pilot will be made in fall 2019.
Public health will also be putting a neighbour-checking pilot program in place at targeted locations.