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How to Stay Safe During Extreme Heat

Hot weather and extreme heat can cause serious illness and can even be life-threatening. Heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke and dehydration, can occur.

During heat waves, residents are encouraged to 
spend time in air-conditioned places like malls, movie theaters, and public libraries. Cambridge Public Branch libraries will welcome people seeking to cool off during regular hours and will have water bubblers available. Branch hours and locations can be found on the City’s website.

Outreach teams and extended hours at select emergency shelters will be utilized to support the unhoused community during extended heat waves. Outreach teams will be distributing water, cooling towels, popsicles, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks and juice boxes.

If you are concerned about a person who is unhoused, please call First Step at (617) 592-6895 or call 911 if the person is experiencing an emergency. 

As the weather heats up, pet safety becomes a “HOT” animal welfare issue. The Cambridge Animal Commission WANTS to remind you that leaving a pet inside a parked car is the most common cause of deadly heat stroke.


  • Leaving your pet in a hot car for even a short time could kill your pet.
  • Even with all the windows cracked, the temperature of your car can reach deadly levels quickly.
  • Pets do not sweat the way humans do.  They CANNOT cool their bodies efficiently in hot temperatures.
  • Protect your dog’s paws, use the 7-second rule. Place your hand on the ground surface. If it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your dog.

Please leave your pets at home in warm weather.  They will be happy to see you when you return!

DPW is working with employees and the public about managing energy usage this summer to help reduce the strain on the region’s power grid.

2 people with water bottles

What is extreme heat?

Extreme heat is a prolonged period of very hot weather, which may include high humidity. In Massachusetts, a “heat wave” is usually defined as a period of three or more consecutive days above 90ºF (Fahrenheit) or 32.2ºC (Celsius). Click here to learn more about heat-related terms (for example a heat advisory, heat warning).

How do I stay cool during extreme heat?

  • Know the signs of heat-related illnesses.
    • Headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, cramps, high body temperature, or a fast pulse are among the signs of heat-related illness.
    • If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately and move to a cooler place. Learn more.

  • Stay hydrated.
    • Keep drinking water, even if you don't feel like it. Drink two to four glasses of cool fluids every hour.
    • Avoid alcoholic drinks and too much caffeine and sugar.
    • Bring water with you wherever you go outside. Public water fountains and water refill stations are open in City parks.

  • Stay cool outdoors.
    • Limit outdoor activities to mornings and evenings when it is cooler. Be sure to decrease your overall level of physical exertion.
    • Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher and look for products that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.
    • To keep cool, wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing. You can also wear a hat, use an umbrella, or wear sunglasses.
    • Place an extra handkerchief or neck gaiter into cold water. Wring it out so it does not drip all over. Place or tie it around your neck. Repeat throughout the day.
    • Seek shade and stay hydrated
    • Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses; click here to learn more.
    • Find Pools & Waterplay Features in Cambridge
      • List of Waterplay Features Currently Turned on at Cambridge Parks 
      • Visit a sprinkler or spray park. Find one near you on the City's Waterplay Map
      • Visit a public pool.
        • Pools at theWar Memorial Recreation Center (1640 Cambridge St.) are open year-round. The pool offers Family Swim and Adult Lap Swim. No registration is needed. 
        • Gold Star Pool (123 Berkshire St.) is an outdoor pool managed by the City. It features 2 ADA-compliant pools (a Beginner Pool and a Lap Pool)
          • The pool will be open Monday, June 24 – Monday, September 2
          • Monday – Friday: 2 – 7 p.m.
          • Open Thursday, July 4, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
          • Saturday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
          • The pool is free to Cambridge residents. Capacity is filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
        • Veterans Memorial Pool (719 Memorial Dr) is operated by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. 
          • The pool will be open Saturday, June 22 – Sunday, August 18
          • Monday – Friday, 11:15 a.m. – 6:45 p.m.
      • You can find other State-run pools and information about their hours here.

  • Stay cool indoors.
    • Close windows and blinds during the day.
    • Take cool showers.
    • Use air conditioning or fans. However, when the temperature is in the high 90s (or higher than 32.2ºC), fans will not prevent heat-related illnesses. If you are concerned about the cost of running your air conditioner, check to see if you are eligible to receive a discounted electricity rate from Eversource to help lower your electricity bills. To learn about a variety of energy saving programs, including a utility bill helpline, visit Cambridgeenergyalliance.org.Man playing on his phone in front of a fan
    • Stay cool by spending time in air-conditioned places like the mall, movie theater, and public libraries. View public library locations and hours.

  • Be a good neighbor. Be sure to check on neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, those who may need additional assistance, and those who may not have air conditioning.

  • Support for people who are unhoused.

First Step Street Outreach– Outreach teams will be working from 2 p.m. – midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Outreach teams will be distributing water, cooling towels, popsicles, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks and juice boxes. The Cambridge Health Alliance street outreach medical team will be on shift with First Step Tuesday – Thursday to provide medical care to anyone who may need assistance during the extreme heat.

Emergency Shelters

Salvation Army – extending daytime hours to 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and giving out water and oranges

240 Albany Street –– Tuesday through Friday anyone will be able to access the site during the day, regardless of whether or not they were in a bed the night before. 12 emergency overflow mats will be available for overnight shelter

Other Shelters - No changes to operations at other shelters; guests at the Transition Wellness Center can stay inside all day.

Shower services – no changes to operating plans:

  • Showers are available at 240 Albany Street from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. daily.
  • First Church Shelter operates a shower service at University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square (66 Winthrop Street) Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Showers are available at the Salvation Army drop-in, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Pro EMS – will have water in each ambulance and will be advised by the state if there is a waiver to have the ability to transport to shelters during a heat advisory.


  • Children and pets should not be left in cars.
    • Never leave children or pets in a car unattended, even if running out for curbside pickup or other quick errands. Interior temperatures can rise almost 20°F within 10 minutes even with the windows cracked open.

  • Call 911 in an emergency.
    • If you or someone is showing signs of heat stroke call 911 immediately. Signs of heat stroke include:
      • A body temperature over 103 degrees; hot, red, dry, or moist skin; a rapid and strong pulse; and possible unconsciousness.
      • While waiting for help to arrive, move the person into a cool area, help cool them down with wet towels or a cool bath, and DO NOT give them fluids.

What are the signs of heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness comes in many forms, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps, and more. Know the signs of heat-related illnesses so that you can take care of yourself or others as needed. Some of these heat-related illnesses can be fatal and medical attention is important. To learn more about heat-related illnesses, what you can do, and when to seek medical attention, click here.

Who is at risk for heat-related illnesses

While everyone is at risk for heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk and should be sure to take special precautions. These populations include:

  • People 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or respiratory illness.
  • People who work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors such as athletes.
  • People who may be socially isolated, including individuals experiencing homelessness and elderly residents.
  • People taking certain medications. Be sure to consult a doctor about the medications you are taking and extreme heat.
  • Those who are overweight and obese.
  • People who are pregnant. 

How can I protect family, friends, and neighbors?

  • Never leave children or pets in cars, even for a few seconds. Cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures in a very short time, even with the windows open.
  • Make sure your loved ones drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the day, including pets.Dog in a car
  • Connect with elderly neighbors and others at risk during a heat wave.  
  • Young children and people with chronic health conditions should also be monitored for heat-related illnesses.
  • Call 911 if you see someone with signs of heat stroke or clearly in need of medical assistance.

What should I do to prepare for, and help prevent, power outages?

  • Plan ahead. Have supplies in case there is a power outage including batteries, flashlights, and nonperishable food.
  • If you have life-support devices, such as home dialysis, breathing machines, or other medical equipment or supplies, that depend on electricity:
    • Talk to your health care provider about how to use them during a power outage;
    • Contact your local electric company and equipment suppliers about your power needs. Some utility companies will put you on a "priority reconnection service" list;
    • Let the fire department know that you are dependent on life-support devices; and
    • If you have medication that requires refrigeration, check with your pharmacist for guidance on proper storage during an extended outage.
  • Monitor the weather. Watch your local news or visit National Weather Service–Boston for advisories and alerts.
  • If there are advisories and alerts, fully charge your cell phone, laptop, and other electronic devices in case there is a power outage.
  • Conserve as much energy as possible to avoid power disruptions. Turn off all nonessential appliances and lights in unoccupied rooms.

What should I do during a power outage?

  • Check current power outages in the state with the Power Outage Map done by Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
  • Call your utility company to report power outages and learn when your power will be restored. Do not call 9-1-1 to report an outage or to ask about power restoration.
  • Stay away from downed utility wires. Always assume a downed power line is live. Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies including downed power lines or if you are dependent on equipment that requires electricity and you need medical assistance.
  • Make sure you and your loved ones stay hydrated.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours
  • If possible, use flashlights instead of candles. If you must use candles, place them in safe holders away from anything that could catch fire. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • Learn more about power outages at the state’s website. 

What are some of the heat-related terms that I should know?

  • Heat Index: A measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. Learn more.Sun in the sky
  • Excessive Heat Watch: Weather conditions are favorable for an excessive heat warning in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Heat Advisory: Daytime heat indices (plural of index) of 100ºF–104ºF (37.8ºC–40.0ºC) for two or more hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning: Daytime heat indices of greater than or equal to 105°F (40.6ºC) for two or more hours.

Additional Resources & Links


Page was posted on 6/7/2021 3:37 PM
Page was last modified on 7/8/2024 11:33 AM
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