PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With memories of the 2021 Heat Dome still fresh in mind, emergency managers around the region are taking care to make sure the word gets out about ways people can stave off the heat.

Chris Voss, the director of Emergency Management for Multnomah County, told KOIN 6 News on Saturday they’ll make a decision on cooling centers before the day is out. But that’s not all.

“Since the heat dome, the county and the state, you know, have worked to get certain high risk folks that also have a limited income and resources, air conditioning,” he said. “Air conditioning is probably becoming more of a need to have for certain groups rather than just nice to have.”

Voss also said “one of the most important things” is getting the word out about the resources that are available to everyone and ways to personally adjust to the extreme heat even without the county’s help.

People cool off in a Portland fountain, August 12, 2023 (KOIN)
People cool off in a Portland fountain, August 12, 2023 (KOIN)

“We definitely want people to consider what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. So outdoor activities, especially you know, if you’re very active and you’re going to try to do something potentially where there’s little to no shade, you really have to think about the concerns and the people that are also participating in those types of events,” he said.

For instance, he said he has 2 dogs and takes them for their walks earlier in the day before the blistering heat later in the afternoon.

“If you’re familiar with the Portland area, you know that for the most part, Multnomah County sees a lot of those hot temperatures around 4 or 5, even 6 o’clock,” he told KOIN 6 News. “So those are really really tough times.”

Voss said the most visible thing emergency managers do is open cooling centers.

“We will sometimes expand hours in library. There’s a lot of activities and things that we can do sometimes to also make sure that people if they don’t currently have a safe place to stay, that they would potentially be able to go somewhere.”

Even if they don’t open cooling centers, malls and libraries are open with air conditioning.

“Extending hours doesn’t quite have the same impact for an event late in the year where we know that the sun is setting at, you know, 8:20 p.m. as it does sometimes and we’re seeing it in June where we’re getting a much later sunset and temperatures stay high for longer.”

But those decisions will be finalized later Saturday, he said.

He noted TriMet also generally waives rider fees for people going to cooling shelters in the extreme heat.

Mostly, though, be kind and watch out for your neighbors.

“Maybe you’ve got air conditioning in your house, or you are sort of limiting some of your activities. But also, you might have family, or friends, or maybe even some neighbors that are not in the same situation. So, your ability to reach out to those folks at this point in time and welcome them in, find out what their status is, and sort of encourage behavior that might also reduce risk is really, really important for us.”

Non-profits spring into action

With triple-digit temperatures expected in Portland metro beginning Sunday, local non-profits like Blanchet House are doing what they can to keep vulnerable residents cool and hydrated.

Jennifer Ransdell, the volunteer manager at Blanchet House, August 12, 2023 (KOIN)
Jennifer Ransdell, the volunteer manager at Blanchet House, August 12, 2023 (KOIN)

“It’s supposed to be 104 degrees for consecutive days,” said Jennifer Ransdell, the volunteer manager at Blanchet House. “We’re just glad that we’re here and that we’re able to get some of these things out to people before this heat wave starts.”

Volunteers on Saturday passed out cases of water and electrolyte packets, cooling towels, brimmed hats and visors, clean socks and other items.

Ransdell told KOIN 6 News they plan to keep handing out these essentials — but donations could further their reach.

“If we get donations in, we will have them all set up just like this and get them out the door to people. So, if anyone wants to donate some electrolytes, that’s a great thing, too, for people,” she said. “We’ve got a good quantity of water right now, but some of that little extra stuff is really helpful.”