Washington, DC - The District of Columbia government will implement a modified version of its multi-agency emergency heat plan in response to the 98° heat index forecast for today. The heat plan is implemented when the heat index (an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when the effects of humidity are added to high temperatures) reaches 95°. The National Weather Service's forecast for the Washington metropolitan area calls for the heat index to reach 98° today.
DC Emergency Management Agency Director Peter G. LaPorte, coordinator of the District's heat plan, said the city will operate cooling centers today at three locations - 441 4th Street, 2000 14th Street (Reeves Municipal Center) and 25 M Street, SW. Additionally, he said all emergency homeless shelters will be open today as cooling centers and the United Planning Organization will operate a van that will canvass the city dispensing water to people living on the streets.
"We are implementing a modified version of the plan today," he said. It's still early in the year. School is still in session, so we will not activate the street showers, and the public pools are not scheduled to open until next week."
When fully operational, the main components of the District's emergency heat plan are cooling centers and street showers at selected District and other public facilities, including public housing, senior centers and recreational areas throughout the city. The plan calls for cooling centers to be activated when the heat index reaches 95°F and remain open until 9 pm. Street showers will be implemented when the heat index reaches 95° and will remain operational until 8 pm. Areas have been designated for street showers based upon their history of unauthorized use of fire hydrants during extremely hot weather that, in turn, lowers water pressure in those areas. The low water pressure poses health and safety problems, especially as it relates to fire suppression.
Public swimming pools also will extend hours of operations. In addition, a limited number of fans will be available to senior citizens by calling the District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Operations Center at (202) 727-6161.
Mr. LaPorte said the very young and the very old are at greatest risk during heat emergencies. Persons with compromised immune systems and individuals who take certain types of medication should also exercise caution. The heat emergency plan is designed to provide relief to these most vulnerable segments of our population. Mr. LaPorte cautioned pet owners to exercise caution with their pets, as well. He said pets should not be locked in parked cars nor left outside for extended periods of time.
For more information about the District's 2001 emergency heat plan and a complete list of cooling centers, street shower locations and public swimming pools, visit the DCEMA website at dcema.dc.gov.