Submitted by Anticipation Hub
24 Apr 2024

Community cooling centres: an anticipatory approach to mitigate the effects of heat waves

Community cooling centres are an effective way to prevent or reduce the negative health impacts of severe heat. Not only do they relieve heat stress on hot days, they are also a place where people can learn about the impacts of heat and the measures they can take to address these. While community cooling centres can be set up in response to a heat wave, they can also be set up in anticipation of forecast extreme heat events.  

A new manual, developed by German Red Cross and the Vietnam Red Cross Society, provides step-by-step guidance on how to install and manage cooling centres. This includes: 

  • practical guidance on setting up a cooling centre, including the design and logistics 
  • information about how to manage a community cooling centre 
  • care protocols and first aid management for people affected by heat 
  • guidance on communications and messaging about heat waves 
  • examples of how different National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies have set up cooling centres. 

“The manual is adaptive in nature,” explains Thomas Smarczyk, technical manager for anticipation and methodology development at the German Red Cross and one of the authors of the manual. “Based on the requirements in a specific city or town, users can decide which features are needed and feasible. The most important thing is that a cooling centre caters to the needs of the community.”

The Vietnam Red Cross Society has been setting community cooling centres during heat waves for many years. Based on this organizational experience, it has created a set of procedures for setting up and managing these. The newly published manual transfers these procedures into recommendations that can be used by National Societies worldwide. The Bangladesh Red Crescent has already put this into practice as it acts ahead of the peak of an ongoing heat wave.

The manual is also relevant for other organizations looking to establish community cooling centres as part of their heat wave preparedness and response efforts.

Thanks to Thomas Smarczyk and Franziska Kellerhaus for their inputs to this article.