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Multnomah County prepares for summer heat, expands cooling centers

The county's emergency plan focuses on early outreach and helping those most vulnerable to the heat.

MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. — Multnomah County is working with the city of Portland to prepare for another summer of potentially dangerous heat. The county recently outlined its updated emergency plan in a news release and announced it would expand cooling center locations.

About one year ago, a heat dome brought triple-digit temperatures to the Pacific Northwest in late June 2021. The county said by the end of summer, heat was responsible for the deaths of 72 people in Multnomah County — and all but three of those deaths resulted from extreme temperatures during the last week of June. The county plans to release a final report on those deaths within the next week.

“Based on our experience last summer and after multiple winter responses, we feel more prepared going into this summer,” said Jenny Carver with the Department of County Human Services. 

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The new emergency plan focuses on early outreach and helping those most vulnerable to the heat. Starting this month, the county's health and human services program will begin delivering fans, air conditioning units and portable heat pumps to low-income clients unable to purchase supplies of their own. 

The Joint Office of Homeless Services is also stock piling hot weather kits that will be distributed by outreach teams, mutual aid groups and volunteers.

The county is also considering using a wireless public emergency alert to warn residents of dangerous heat.

Cooling centers

The county has identified 18 buildings that can be quickly converted into 24-hour cooling spaces this summer. Last year, the county opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time.

Multnomah County uses the NWS HeatRisk map to make decisions about whether or not to open cooling centers. When the risk level is at red or magenta (high or very high risk for much of the population) the county will open cooling centers.

Any time the county declares a state of emergency, TriMet will shuttle riders to cooling centers and waive fairs for those who cannot afford to pay.

Hot weather resources

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