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Beat the heat at an Oklahoma cooling center near you

Cooling centers are air-conditioned spaces open to the public.
Delaney Van
Cooling centers are air-conditioned spaces open to the public.

There are various places throughout Oklahoma offering residents a space to cool down for free and get some relief from the summer heat.

With temperatures climbing across Oklahoma this week, health experts are urging people to continue taking heat precautions.

EMSA has responded to 115 heat-related illness calls and has transported 70 people to the hospital so far this month in and around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Adam Paluka, a spokesman for EMSA, said it's important for people to stay in air-conditioned rooms and out of direct sunlight when possible.

“There's really no excuse for somebody not to take advantage of cooling centers this year,” he said. They're there for the community to take advantage of, and they're there so that we can hopefully avoid any heat-related deaths.”

Below is a map that pinpoints available cooling center locations across the state. Search for your city or county using the table at the end of the article.

If you’d like to add a location(s), please reach out to Xcaret Nuñez at [email protected].

Paluka said it’s important for people to stay hydrated and drink between 60 and 80 ounces of water the day before they plan to spend a long time outside. He also said people should wear light-colored, loose-fitted clothes when spending time outdoors.

“When the heat index is above 100 degrees, and you're not prepared for the heat, your body is going to start succumbing to heat-related illness within two minutes of being outside,” he said.

If you do stay outside for a long time, Paluka says the signs of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness and body aches. The biggest sign of heat stroke is when a person stops sweating, and if that happens, Paluka says to call 911 immediately.

“The common denominator for every heat-related illness call is somebody is outside,” he said. “No one is immune from the heat. So every single person in Oklahoma needs to take advantage of the opportunity to take heat precautions.”

Financial assistance for summer utility costs

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is accepting applications for household utility assistance.

The Low-Income Home Water Assistance Program, or LIHWAP, uses federal pandemic relief funds to help Oklahomans maintain their access to water and sewer services — that money must be used by September of this year. The program provides a one-time stipend of up to $1,500 that goes directly to the recipients’ utility provider to cover bills.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, works similarly to the water program but for electric and gas utility bills. LIHEAP gives eligible households a one-time payment of the minimum amount needed to help pay their past-due utility balance for the summer and caps payments at $500. People can also apply to help reimburse the cost to buy or repair cooling equipment for up to $150, according to OKDHS.

People can apply for LIHWAP or LIHEAP through OKDHS’ website, or call at (405) 522-5050 but expect a long wait time while on call. Applicants will have to present their most recent utility bill, utility supplier, a form of ID, social security number and verification of income.

Native households can apply through OKDHS’ website or through their tribal nation. However, OKDHS states Native households cannot receive assistance from both OKDHS and their tribe within the same federal fiscal year — October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023.

Oklahoma’s Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, is another federally funded program that helps low-income households look for ways to lower utility bills and save energy.

WAP conducts energy audits on households that qualify for the program and pays for weatherization solutions such as air-conditioning-unit replacements, wall and attic insulation and caulking around windows. Applications are open year-long and can be found by applying through your local Community Action Agency group’s website or contacting your local CAA office.

The Tulsa Weather Coalition is a program under the nonprofit Community Service Council that purchases air conditioners for low-income households through donations. Eligible applicants must also live in Tulsa County and have a medical condition that is made worse by heat. Applications for an air conditioner can be found on Tulsa Weather Coalition’s website.

If you’d like to add a location(s), please reach out to Xcaret Nuñez at [email protected].

Xcaret Nuñez covered agriculture and rural communities for KOSU as a corps member with Report for America from June 2022 to September 2023.
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