With the arrival of warmer temperatures, the City of Toronto is sharing an update on its Heat Relief Strategy for the 2020 hot weather season, in response to COVID-19, to ensure that emergency heat relief opportunities are available and accessible to those who may need them.
Many facilities that were part of the City’s 2019 Heat Relief Network of cool spaces across Toronto are closed due to COVID-19. For this reason, the City’s plan for heat relief this year has been modified and includes 14 Emergency Cooling Centres that will open across Toronto during Heat Warnings.
Environment and Climate Change Canada 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.
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.
During the 2020 hot weather season, the Emergency Cooling Centres will offer a publicly accessible, air-conditioned place for residents to rest indoors and receive a cool drink. Staff who are trained to assist residents affected by the extreme heat will be on hand. Strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Emergency Cooling Centres are available to residents if they do not have access to a cool space and cannot keep cool in their home or outdoors
All the centres will operate during Heat Warnings only, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Metro Hall, which will run 24 hours during Heat Warnings.
The 14 Emergency Cooling Centres are:
An interactive map is available to help those who need to locate an Emergency Cooling Centre near them.
Toronto Public Health continues to advise residents to stay home, when possible, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19; however, people who are at higher risk for COVID-19 (e.g., persons who are more than 70 years of age), or who are required to self-isolate due to COVID-19 (e.g., symptoms, high risk exposure), may visit an Emergency Cooling Centre if necessary to beat the heat while taking the following precautions:
Emergency Cooling Centre staff will screen all visitors and accommodate those who are required to self-isolate in an alternate space separate from the main Emergency Cooling Centre area.
The City’s Streets to Homes outreach team is doing wellness checks for clients who live outdoors. During a Heat Warning, two outreach teams active in the city (Streets to Homes and Fred Victor Keep Cool Project) will be doing wellness checks, advising clients of the open Emergency Cooling Centre locations and the TTC assistance to get them to a site, providing them with water, and recommending, if they stay outdoors, to move to a shaded area.
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. Toronto Community Housing will be providing residents with access to cooling in many of their buildings during Heat Warnings. More information for landlords is available on the RentSafeTO webpage.
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.
Actions that individuals can take to beat the heat and stay safe include:
More tips to protect yourself from the heat are available at toronto.ca/keepcool. When a Heat Warning is declared, those who need assistance or have heat-related inquiries can call 311.
Information to help residents prepare for extreme weather and weatherproof their homes is available at toronto.ca/extremeweatherready.
Air pollution often increases during hot weather conditions. People with heart and lung conditions, seniors and parents/guardians of young children should pay special attention to the hourly Air Quality Health Index levels and forecasts. Individuals are encouraged to download Environment and Climate Change Canada’s WeatherCAN app to stay up to date on heat warnings and special weather statements.
Due to climate change, Toronto is expected to experience higher summer temperatures, unpredictable weather, and more extremely hot days. The City is continuing long-term efforts to reduce the impacts of heat-related illness by installing green infrastructure, increasing the tree canopy to reduce outdoor temperatures and encouraging housing retrofits to decrease indoor temperatures.
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit toronto.ca or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/CityofToronto, on Instagram at instagram.com/cityofto or on Facebook at facebook.com/cityofto.