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Bitter cold temperatures are expected over the next few days and some jurisdictions may be interested in opening warming centers for the public. A warming center is a temporary facility that is made available during extreme temperature conditions when power outages occur or when normal coping mechanisms in the home are ineffective or unavailable. They are open for a limited number of hours for a limited number of days depending on the incident. Warming Centers ARE NOT overnight shelters or homeless shelters, and are not daycare for children, the elderly, or others who cannot care for themselves. It is assumed that the individuals who use warming centers can return to their homes when the center is closed.
Some tips for opening a warming center:
- Prior to opening a warming center, jurisdictions should determine who the center will provide services for (local residents only, neighboring citizens who may be affected, etc.), what services that the public will need, and the jurisdiction’s ability to meet them. Minimal needs include tables and chairs, television, charging station/outlets, and information updates regarding the “incident” or weather. Prolonged exposure to severe conditions may require expanded services.
- Determine the hours that your warming center/shelter will be open. Publish those hours and determine what you will do if power is not restored/conditions do not change and your warming center needs to close.
- Ensure that your warming center is ADA compliant and able to accept service animals (where applicable).
- Make sure you know the occupant capacity of the building you are planning on using. Overfilling the space/building will violate the fire code.
- Consider posting code of conduct or rules for occupants of your warming center.
- Ensure that lavatory facilities and power are sufficient for temporary occupants. Consider alternative options if the primary warming center becomes full and a secondary location needs to be opened.
- Make sure the roadways to the warming center are cleared and the parking lots and walkways are clear for occupants.
- Consider providing security for the warming center. If the center is open to all citizens, you want to ensure the safety of all occupants.
- Consider checking with your legal/insurance advisors on the liability issues regarding mass sheltering/gathering in your building.
- Assign someone to document all center activities. This could help if incidents arise or reimbursements are expected.
- Alert EMA when/if you plan to open a warming center. EMA will be maintaining county situational awareness during severe weather and will document its impacts on jurisdictions.
These are just some basic tips for warming center operations. Additional considerations for operating a warming/cooling center can provided by EMA. Any jurisdiction considering operating a warming center is asked to create a more formal plan that can be referenced now, or in the future, for all warming center operations.
If your jurisdiction (or a business/organization within your jurisdiction) opens a warming center please let Ross County EMA know so that they can help prioritize response efforts in power outages. The EMA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-773-1700 during normal business hours and 740-253-0939 after hours.