Cooling Assistance to Reduce Heat Stress

June 21, 2016
city skyline with bright sun and thermometer showing high temperatures

city skyline with bright sun and thermometer showing high temperatures

By Lauren Christopher, Director, Division of Energy Assistance, Office of Community Services

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat events are a leading cause of extreme weather-related deaths in the United States. 7,415 people died due to exposure to excessive natural heat from 1999 to 2010, an average of about 618 deaths a year.

It is particularly sad, because heat-related deaths and illness are mostly preventable. The Administration for Children and Families is one of the many Federal agencies working to help communities prepare for high temperatures this summer.

Fear of high cooling bills may push people to raise the thermostat in their homes. But higher indoor temperatures may lead to unsafe conditions and extreme heat-related health risks.  Older adults, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat-related health risks and are often the population that  may be eligible for assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Many communities may use LIHEAP to ease extreme heat-related health risks during the summer months by offering assistance with electric bill payment and energy-related home repairs as well as other heat-related services such as:

  • Cooling centers with air conditioners.
  • Provision of fans and air conditioners.
  • Providing critical information about emergency resources and guidance.

To locate the energy assistance office in your area, please call the National Energy Assistance Referral line toll-free phone number at 1-866-674-6327 or email energy@ncat.org. You can also contact your State and Territory grantee or Tribal grantee for information on the LIHEAP assistance that may be available.

The LIHEAP Resource Guide on Indoor Health and Safety provides additional information and resources to help you stay cool.

A few tips for staying healthy during hot weather:

  • Close window blinds to reduce the amount of sun entering the home during the day.
  • Use the stove and oven less by cooking in larger batches.
  • Stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day. 
  • Take cold showers or baths.

Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s or greater, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. The strongest protective factor against heat-related illness is air conditioning, and even just a few hours a day of exposure to air conditioning reduces the risk. If air conditioning is not available in your home, move to an air-conditioned place such as a shopping center, library, or other designated cooling center.

Beyond staying cool indoors, be sure to check routinely on the elderly and other homebound individuals, and NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle. Remember, cracking the windows will not be enough to prevent heat stroke for a person or pet left in a car.

Stay cool and safe this summer!


For more information on heat-related illnesses and treatment, please visit the CDC Extreme Heat website Visit disclaimer page .

Read more about how one local community is using LIHEAP funds: “Joint Effort Keeps Low-Income Residents Cool Visit disclaimer page ” (News Tribune, Missouri, June 23, 2016)

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