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Emergency Planning and Response

Municipalities have played an integral role in working on emergency planning and response including providing information to the public on cooling centres, extreme weather, smoke, fire and air quality and municipal plans in order to reduce risks related to emergencies. See information in the sections below that can be used for local emergency planning and response.

During days of extreme heat, it is very important that every person has access to a place to stay cool. Emergency Cooling Centres can provide protection for people who are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. Conditions during high heat and humidity have the potential to cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and in some cases death. Everyone is at risk from exposure to hot temperatures. Some groups are in greater danger of being affected including older adults with chronic illness or who take certain medications, infants and preschool children, people who participate in physical activity, those who work outside for long periods of time, those who do not have air conditioning or easy access to a cool place, and people who are experiencing homelessness.

When Environment and Climate Change Canada issues a heat warning, extra precautions need to be taken by everyone, including municipalities. This report, A Harmonized Heat Warning and Information System for Ontario (HWIS), provides information on the roles and responsibilities of municipalities and public health units during a heat warning.

Here is a current list of Cooling Centre locations in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark.

Refer to our webpage on Exposure to Hot/Cold Temperatures for more information on how individuals can stay cool.

Suitable Locations to Host an Emergency Cooling Centre

  • Municipal-owned buildings (e.g., community centre, library, arena, museum, etc.) with air conditioning.
  • Privately-owned buildings – Coordinate with a non-profit organization or owner of a private building (e.g., shopping mall, places of worship) and encourage residents to go there.
  • Parked air conditioned mobile vehicles – If there is a lack of suitable sites, consider using air conditioned vehicles such as public transit and school buses and recreational vehicles (RV).
  • Pools, splash pads, and wading pools – For residents who cannot get to a designated Emergency Cooling Centre, consider directing them to these cooling facilities instead. Consider setting up temporary or permanent shade structures (e.g., trees, built structures) near these amenities and converting all lane swims to open swims.

When opening an Emergency Cooling Centre consider who is most likely to use it and how they will get there. Having the centre(s) close to low income neighbourhoods (where home air conditioning may not be common), neighbourhoods with a large percentage of older adults (where mobility and car access may be limited), and neighbourhoods with a large percentage of people experiencing homelessness could better help those most vulnerable to extreme heat events.

Communication and Outreach

  • Have an Emergency Action Plan in place for each Emergency Cooling Centre facility and be prepared to contact emergency officials in the case of severe illness at a facility.
  • Coordinate with partner organizations to get messages to the public.
  • Communicate to the public:
    • Hours of operation.
    • Whether or not food and/or drinks will be provided. Promote proper hydration and nutrition during extreme heat events.
    • That there are no cots or overnight access.
    • Rules that must be followed during extraordinary circumstances (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Other considerations:
    • Ways to transport people to/from the Emergency Cooling Centre(s).
    • Sending a mobile vehicle to vulnerable neighbourhoods for outreach.

People who have Respiratory Illness or Symptoms

If extreme heat is causing a health emergency, call 9-1-1. When travelling to/from and while at an Emergency Cooling Centre, if you have any symptoms or have been exposed to someone who is sick:

  • Wear a face covering/mask.
  • Practice hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Anticipate a lineup outside of the Emergency Cooling Centre. Encourage no smoking/vaping in the lineup-

Supplies and Sanitation

  • Welcome visitors to wear a face covering/mask in the Emergency Cooling Centre.
  • Provide hand washing stations and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the Emergency Cooling Centre.
  • Provide garbage cans to encourage cleanliness.
  • Encourage visitors to bring their own water bottle to stay hydrated. Consider providing a source of water and a snack. Promote proper hydration and nutrition during extreme heat events. Exposure to Hot/Cold Temperatures – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Commonly touched areas such as door handles, light switches, seating including arm rests, and barriers between staff and visitors should be cleaned as often as necessary to maintain cleanliness.
  • Commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are sufficient at killing COVID-19.
  • Ensure that the disinfectant you use has an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). Refer to this Health Canada list of disinfectants with evidence of use against COVID-19.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions when mixing cleaners or disinfectants.
  • Create and follow a cleaning procedure during each shift at the Emergency Cooling Centre.
  • Ensure that bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. Bathrooms should be closely monitored for cleanliness. Read this fact sheet for more on Cleaning and Disinfecting Bathrooms Used by the Public..
  • Have proper training for employees on how to protect themselves and visitors, and for those who handle cleaners and disinfectants. Have PPE, hand washing facilities, and Safety Data Sheets available and bottles or containers properly labeled.
  • For more information, see this Public Health Ontario resource on cleaning and disinfecting in public settings.

Air Filtration

  • The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system of the Emergency Cooling Centre should be well maintained and in proper working order.
  • Use the highest efficiency filters possible in the HVAC system.

Climate Change is bringing more extreme weather and with that more costs to municipalities. Adaptation planning could significantly reduce these costs. “According to the report’s findings, avoiding the worst impacts of climate change at the municipal level will cost an estimated $5.3 billion per year, or equivalent to 0.26% of Canada’s GDP. Studies have shown that investments in resilient infrastructure have a return on investment of $6 in future averted losses for every $1 spent proactively. Those investments are critical to helping local communities adapt to the changing climate and to reduce risks to Canadians from extreme weather.”

News: Climate adaptation estimated to cost municipalities $5.3 billion annually (

Additionally emergency planning for municipal events can help reduce the costs associated with the most likely incidents. Learn more here Emergency Planning for Events – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

Poor outdoor air quality can contribute to poor health. It can cause lung disease and make breathing difficult for some. In recent years forest fires have made the impact or poor air quality on our health and daily lives very clear. Being aware of and sharing information on air quality and other risks associated with forest fires and what to do for both, can be helpful in reducing our risk. Find more information here: Air Quality – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit