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City of Somerville Hosts Year-Round Preparedness Initiative

Sep 26, 2022 | Beth Hess

In 2020, the City of Somerville in Massachusetts experienced one of its hottest summers on record. In response, the “Keep Cool Somerville” initiative works to improve community resilience to extreme heat. This year-round initiative began as a collaboration between the City of Somerville and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to address the health impacts of climate change.

“The program has a focus on sustainability,” said Erin Noël, Community Engagement Specialist with the City of Somerville – Department of Health & Human Services.

Keep Cool Somerville is open to everyone in the community with a focus on Latino and lower income residents who feel more of a burden when temperatures rise.

The Keep Cool Somerville team developed a Cooling Strategies Toolkit as a resource for the City and for community groups to inspire and guide local heat preparedness activities. The program’s initial grant funding made low-cost air conditioning units available to community members.

The initiative’s Keep Cool Photovoice project encourages residents to use photography and art to share their experiences with extreme heat and the actions they take to keep cool.

“The program helps us touch base with the community,” said Noël. “People get to share their experiences.”

The initiative is advertised throughout community including public spaces like parks and the library and through the health department’s newsletter. Outreach and community surveys are conducted in several languages.

“The program has been really well received,” said Noël. “People might not want to reach out for help, but this is accessible.”

Images from the Keep Cool Photovoice project:


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