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NYC Hazards: Heat Emergencies

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Heat waves are among the most significant hazards facing New York City. When weather forecasts call for dangerous heat, the City activates emergency plans to ensure the safety of residents and critical infrastructure.

What is a Heat Emergency?

The National Weather Service (NWS) has developed a three-tier watch and warning system to alert emergency planners, public safety professionals and the public to potential heat events. Based on the heat index forecast, NWS could issue a heat advisory, excessive heat watch, or an excessive heat warning.
Learn more NWS heat terms and definitions

Throughout the warm weather months, OEM closely monitors NWS forecasts. When the heat index is forecast to reach 100° F, OEM convenes a steering committee comprised of various health, critical infrastructure, public safety, and communications agency representatives. The steering committee meets daily to review forecasts, assess the status of the City's infrastructure and its citizens' health and safety, and determine what actions should be taken.

Depending on the severity, the City may open cooling centers, increase outreach to the homeless and other at-risk populations, or issue excavation safety alerts for contractors working with underground infrastructure. In more severe heat emergencies, the City's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will also be activated to provide a central point of coordination and communication for various aspects of the emergency response.

Before and during an emergency, OEM will send emergency alerts and updates to New Yorkers through various channels. Learn more


Fire Hydrants and Water Supply

While it may be tempting to cool yourself off by opening a fire hydrant, open hydrants can lower local water pressure, hinder the efforts of firefighters, and endanger the lives of children who may be propelled into traffic by the force of the water. An open hydrant wastes 1,000 gallons of water per minute, overtaxes the sewer system and causes flooding of City streets.

  • If you observe a running fire hydrant, please notify the City by calling 311 (TTY: 212-504-4115), or contacting 311 online with its location.
  • If you experience low or no water pressure, notify the City by calling 311 (TTY: 212-504-4115), or contacting 311 online.

"Spray caps," which can be obtained from your local fire station, can be installed on any fire hydrant to produce a circular spray of cool water, reducing output to a safe level while still providing relief from the heat.

  • To obtain a spray cap, visit your local firehouse. You must be 18 or older to obtain a spray cap.
Conserve Water 
  • Repair leaky faucets; turn taps off tightly.
  • Take short showers; only fill bathtubs halfway when taking a bath.
  • Run dishwasher and washing machines only when they are full.
  • Do not let water run while washing dishes, shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Observe restrictions on watering your lawn or plants


Avoid Power Outages: Conserve Power

While power outages occur infrequently in New York City, they are most likely to happen during the hot summer months when utility usage is at its peak. Plan ahead to ensure your home and workplace are prepared for a potential outage. It is always a good idea to have emergency supplies on hand in case of an outage. If you lose power, notify your utility provider immediately. You should also take steps to remain cool. If this is impossible in the absence of electricity, go to a cool location such as a friend or relative's home, theater, restaurant, library or other air-conditioned facility, or call 311 (TTY: 212-504-4115), or contact 311 online to find out whether a cooling center is open near you.

During periods of intense electrical usage, such as on hot, humid days, it is important to conserve as much energy as possible to avoid brownouts and other electrical disruptions.

  • Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees — a 75-degree setting uses 18 percent more electricity and a 72-degree setting uses 39 percent more electricity. This setting allows for sufficient cooling while still conserving electric power.
  • Only use an air conditioner when you are home. If you want to cool your room down before you arrive home, set a timer to have it switch on no more than one-half hour before you arrive
  • Turn off all nonessential appliances.
  • Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
  • Only use appliances that have heavy electrical loads (dishwashers, washers, dryers) early in the morning or very late at night.

While diminishing your power usage may seem like an inconvenience, your cooperation will help to ensure that utilities can continue to provide uninterrupted electrical service.
Learn more about preparing for a power outage



Brush Fire Safety

New York City's outer-borough grasslands are prone to brush fires in the hot summer months, when vegetation is dry. Review safety tips for protecting your home and surroundings from brush fires.