PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Emergency management leaders in Multnomah County took lessons they learned from the record-shattering heat wave at the end of June and applied them to this heat wave now happening at the end of July.
The main changes include opening more cooling centers that are spread throughout neighborhoods, including libraries, and extending their hours. Officials said more people can take advantage of the air conditioning because it reduces the need to travel as far as before.
Chris Voss, the Multnomah County Emergency Management director, said they’re testing a calling notification system to cell phones and land lines to notify and warn residents about the heat wave and the available resources.
“Even though this is not as extreme, we want to make sure that we can get this right,” Voss said. “And so this is an opportunity for us to also sometimes test these systems to see how effective they can be, make sure that we get it right.”
But not everyone got the message.
“The people that did not get the message often meant that they had no hard-line number, and they hadn’t used that telephone number to sort of register it for any systems or sign up for any alerts,” Voss said.
While the government is doing what it can, officials said the best way everyone can help is by checking on your neighbors and vulnerable people. Knock on your neighbor’s door and check to make sure they’re OK.
That’s in the short term. There are longer term plans as well.
Voss said infrastructure can be improved to lessen the effects of heat islands, where buildings and pavement make certain parts of the city such as the central eastside industrial district of Portland even hotter.
One example he cited is rooftop gardens to naturally keep things more cool.
“We’re looking at everything, the short, the midterm and the long-term,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I think that over the course of not just the next few weeks — we’re already making these changes — but I think over the course of years you’ll see even more changes implemented.”
Though infrastructure changes will take time and encouragement for building owners, Multnomah County is making quick fixes in logistics, communication, outreach and transportation to avoid a repeat of the historic heat wave a month ago.
TriMet offers rides to cooling centers
In a statement Thursday night, TriMet officials said they won’t enforce fares if you’re headed to a cooling center. “Effective immediately, you won’t be denied a ride or get a ticket if you are going to a cooling center,” they said.
MAX trains often run slower in high heat.
“When it gets hot, we slow trains through some areas to keep them moving without damaging the system. Minor delays may happen on MAX Green and Orange lines when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, as trains will decrease their speed in some areas. All MAX lines will slow in high speed areas when temperatures climb past 100 degrees,” they said.
Riders should check TriMet Alerts for the latest information.