Tulare update reveals one person used cooling center over summer

Tulare City Council evaluates the usage of their cooling centers, finding it was used by one individual all summer the city takes necessary steps to improve for the winter and warming center

TULARE – Now that the seasons are changing and the temperature is lowering, the city of Tulare evaluates how they handled their cooling centers during the summer to see what to improve for their warming centers. 

With seasons getting more and more aggressive each year, the city of Tulare provides residents with heating and cooling centers to provide a safe option out of the elements. When the temperature reaches over 103 degrees they open a cooling center and when it gets below 29 degrees, the city opens a warming center. At the Oct. 4 city council meeting, the council determined there was not enough outreach done, as only one individual used the cooling center throughout the whole summer.

“[The council] believes that there’s still a value to having the cooling centers available, even though they weren’t utilized heavily,” Josh McDonnell, Tulare deputy city manager said. “Perhaps the issue as to why they weren’t utilized more was because there was not enough of a marketing campaign, the word did not get out well enough that the cooling centers were an option for folks who would potentially need it most.”

Fire Chief Michael Ott gave the update at the meeting and told the council the center was open from June to September. The lovely Central Valley weather reached over 103 degrees 24 of those days. One person took advantage of the cooling center throughout the entirety of the summer. This is the first year the city has started keeping track of usage. Council still determined the project to be valuable, only the city needs to do a better job of advertising and marketing the centers for those in need.

“[Council] directed staff to formulate ways in which to market the availability of cooling centers, or warming centers, such as the case may be when they’re out there,” McDonnell said. “Staff took that to heart, and we are going to definitely be increasing our outreach efforts when we have extreme weather events”

Staff plans to do even more social media outreach, and McDonnell said they are committed to utilizing different social media sources to broaden their audience. The city also plans to create pamphlets and pass them out to specific at risk populations, as well as increasing signage. Currently the signage is essentially nonexistent, so the city plans to bring more attention to the location with signs that have arrows.

Last year, not one person took advantage of the cooling center. This year, the city implemented more social media posts, but that was not enough. John Herman with the Tulare Downtown Association spoke at the meeting and brought up the point that the city of Tulare’s facebook page only has a following of a little over 650. 

“So of 654 followers, you only have about one out of 100 people who see [a post], so you’re having maybe six people see a post on the city page. That’s part of your problem,” Herman said. “I think that’s where probably most of your marketing issues are coming in as you just don’t have enough followship there.”

Ott also told council the total cost for the cooling center was $4,900. McDonnell said that cost is mostly for the security guard that is on the property on those hot days. The cooling center is located at the Prosperity Sports Park. 

As for the warming center, the city plans to implement these changes as soon as the city has any inclement weather. However, McDonnell said last year the warming center did not open once, so only time will tell if the weather will be cold enough to require a warming center. 

As far as future weather goes, the city will take it one year at a time and further evaluate after the summer and winter months. Vice Mayor Terry Sayer hopes to do some outreach and determine why individuals did not take advantage of the center. 

By doing further research, staff will be able to better understand individuals who are the most at risk and reach more people. 

“Council very firmly concluded that, yes, they want this program to continue, yes, they were okay with the monies that were spent on it and furthermore, they really want the additional outreach to be done to let folks who are at the greatest risk know that the cooling and warming centers are available,” McDonnell said. 

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