The City of Toronto is beginning the transition back to a modified Heat Relief Network during upcoming Heat Warnings for the remainder of the 2020 hot weather season, including reducing the number of Emergency Cooling Centres (ECCs), now that wider heat relief opportunities are available and accessible to the public.
The network features cool spaces that are open during and beyond Heat Warnings and others open only during Heat Warnings. It includes pools, wading pools, splash pads, community centres and, during Heat Warnings, four ECCs for the public.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the City is adapting its approach to provide as much access to heat relief as possible and to reflect the advice and direction from Toronto Public Health, as well as the provincial and federal governments. Additional cool spaces will be added to the Network, as they become available.
Extreme heat is associated with negative health impacts ranging from heat stress to heat stroke and death. During periods of hot weather, the safety of all residents is the priority.
In 2019, the City adopted the approach to mitigating heat through the Network. Residents were able to access approximately 300 cool, public spaces throughout the summer season including libraries, community centres, shelters, drop-ins, 24-hour respite sites, several private and non-profit organizations including some shopping malls and YMCA locations, as well as pools, wading pools and splash pads. At the start of this year’s hot weather season, the City had to modify its approach to heat relief because the network sites were closed due to COVID-19.
The network now includes:
As more Heat Relief Network spaces open to the public, the ECC program may be further amended.
The ECCs will open during Heat Warnings only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except Metro Hall, which is open 24 hours starting at 11 a.m. on the first Heat Warning day), including the Labour Day holiday, if required. ECC locations offer a publicly accessible, air-conditioned place to rest indoors and receive a cool drink. Staff who are trained to assist residents affected by the extreme heat are on hand. Strict infection prevention and control measures are in place.
An interactive map is available to help those who need to access a cool space find a location near them.
It is mandatory for the public to wear masks or face coverings, with some exceptions, in all indoor public spaces, including ECCs. A mask will be provided at the ECC to those without a mask who want to enter.
The City’s updated 2020 Heat Relief Strategy reflects the current public health advice related to COVID-19, with guidance for safely operating apartment building cooling rooms and other tips for apartment building landlords and tenants. More information for landlords is available online.
Community agencies are encouraged to educate clients on the risks of heat-related illness and to call, text or video chat with those clients who are at increased risk of heat-related illness during Heat Warnings. The City has prepared guidance for community agencies, places of worship, and other organizations interested in opening their own cool spaces.
Frequently Asked Questions about Community-run Cooling Rooms is available online.
ECCC issues a Heat Warning when it forecasts two or more consecutive days with daytime maximum temperatures of 31°C or warmer, together with minimum nighttime temperatures of 20°C or warmer, or when there is a forecast of two or more consecutive days with humidex values expected to reach 40 or higher.
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