Frequently Asked Questions About Cooling Centers

What is a cooling center?

Cooling centers are places where you can cool down during hot weather. Cooling centers include indoor air-conditioned facilities such as libraries, community and senior centers, schools, and malls. If air-conditioned cooling centers are not available then outdoor recreational areas like local and state parks, beaches, splash pads/spray parks and community pools are other places to cool down.

Every year, the New York State Department of Health collects information about cooling centers and other places to get cool across New York State. This information is voluntarily submitted by local health departments and emergency management offices. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather those that are locally identified, able to accommodate crowds, and willing to be included.

How can I find the closest cooling center?

Use the Cooling Center Finder to get public transportation information or driving and walking directions to a cooling center near you.

Why is spending time in air-conditioned places important?

Spending at least a few hours in air conditioning each day can help reduce the risk of heat-related illness, particularly during multiple days of extreme heat. Air-conditioning is especially important for vulnerable groups of people, such as older adults, children, and people with certain health conditions.

What is heat-related illness?

Heat-related illness occurs when the body is unable to cool itself. The most common heat-related illnesses are heat stroke (sun stroke), heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Learn more about identifying the symptoms of heat-related illness and first aid response.

What other steps should I take to cool off during extreme heat?

If you cannot get to an air-conditioned place for at least couple of hours a day, cool off by visiting a shady park, public pool or beach. At home, try spending more time on lower levels of a building where it may be cooler, closing window shades and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Drinking plenty of water or nonalcoholic and caffeine-free liquids, taking a cool shower or bath, limiting strenuous activities and avoiding using a stove or oven will help you keep cooler. Learn more at the Extreme Heat Tips page.

Why are there no cooling centers in my county?

Cooling centers are voluntarily reported by local health departments and emergency management offices and are not a comprehensive list of every public air-conditioned building or place to get cool in a county. We know some counties have more comprehensive lists than others, and we are working to solicit additional cooling center information from local health departments and emergency management offices.

If you are looking for a place to get cool and there are no cooling centers in your area, air-conditioned libraries, supermarkets, and malls, are great places for that. If you cannot get to an air-conditioned place for at least couple of hours a day, take steps to keep cool. When indoors keep cool by spending more time on lower levels of a building where it may be cooler, closing window shades and curtains, drinking plenty of water or nonalcoholic and caffeine-free liquids, taking a cool shower or bath, and trying to avoid using your stove or oven. To keep cool when outdoors, find a well shaded area, and limit strenuous activities. You can also cool off at swimming facilities like community swimming pools, beaches and spray parks. Visit us at our Extreme Heat Advice page to see all our advice and resources available. You can also contact your local health department for more information.

If you have suggestions about possible cooling centers in your community, please email the facility name, facility contact information and your contact information to coolingcenters@health.ny.gov. Our program can work with the facility owner and the local health department or emergency management office to see if the facility can be added to the listing.

What cooling assistance programs are available if I am considering installing an air conditioner in my home?

The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps low-income people pay the cost of heating and/or cooling their homes. You may receive one Cooling Assistance HEAP benefit per applicant household for the purchase and installation of an air conditioner or a fan to help your home stay cool.

You may be eligible to receive a HEAP Cooling Assistance HEAP benefit if:

  • Your gross monthly income is at or below HEAP’s monthly income limits, or you receive SNAP, Temporary Assistance, or Supplemental Security Income Living Alone
  • You received a Regular HEAP Heating benefit greater than $21 this year or received a Regular benefit equal to $21 during the current program year and reside in government subsidized housing with heat included in your rent
  • A member of your household is a United States Citizen or qualified alien, and you have no working air conditioners or your air conditioner is at least 5 years old
  • You have not received a HEAP-funded air conditioner in 5 years

If you are interested in applying for the Cooling Assistance HEAP benefit or would like to learn more about the eligibility criteria, please visit their website https://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/#cooling-assistance or call 1-800-342-3009.

Who can I contact for more information?

If you have any questions, please contact us at coolingcenters@health.ny.gov and we will be happy to assist you. For local governments who have questions about funding for cooling centers, please visit the Climate Smart Communities Grant Program. The Climate Smart Communities Program offers a 50/50 matching grant program for municipalities to implement projects focused on climate change adaptation, including developing a cooling center.