City works to make cooling centers more accessible, inform public about the resource

SPOKANE, Wash. — It’s going to be another hot weekend with temperatures in the triple digits. To help people stay safe and avoid the heat, cooling centers are open again. The city’s working to let more people know there are places they can cool off in this extreme heat.

During the heat wave last month, 20 people lost their lives to heat-related illnesses. Since then, cooling centers will open when it reaches 95 degrees outside. These are safe, staffed places people can come to use AC and get free cold drinks. There are also tables set up if they want to bring a laptop or book to read while they cool off.

“I would definitely like some sort of sanctuary to kind of hide away in, so I could see myself coming here for sure,” said Spokane resident Xavier Jaggar.

He doesn’t have AC and struggled during the last heat wave, but he didn’t even know about the cooling centers.

“Social media’s a great tool,” he said. “If I had seen a post about it on Instagram, definitely would’ve caught my attention.”

Communication and consistency have been one of the biggest hurdles for the city. Finding new ways to spread the word and keep the community up to date has been a priority for Council Member Lori Kinnear.

“It needs to be the same. Every time it hits 95 or above people need to know automatically this is what I do so that it’s not changing,” she said. “I think the communication was probably the biggest hurdle initially and then transportation.”

This time around, she says more people are using the resource. During an afternoon shift this week, she says 100 people used the cooling center at Looff Carrousel. Other locations are also open at Spokane Public Libraries.

There is discussion to expand the resource to other nonprofit and faith-based organizations, but Kinnear says these organizations will have to sign up for the long haul. She doesn’t want places to host people one time and then back out. Consistency is most important.

Jaggar’s thankful he now knows about this resource and says it’s definitely something he’ll use in the future.

“Having that available is a big step. I think it’s extremely important, and I wish I had known about it sooner,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s here.”

You can also get a free ride to a cooling center through STA’s Paratransit program. You can call (509)-328-1552 to schedule a trip. However, you need to plan ahead because the rides take around two hours.

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