A man photographs a winter sunset at Sunset Cliffs. Photo by Chris Stone
A man photographs a winter sunset at Sunset Cliffs. Photo by Chris Stone

With summer at hand, San Diego County Thursday opened its annual Cool Zones program, giving people free, safe, air-conditioned sanctuaries to escape extreme heat.

The program will run through Oct. 31. Sites include the county’s 33 library branches, community centers and other locations across the county. A complete list can be found at sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/hhsa/programs/ais/documents/Cool%20Zones%20S ites%20Website%20Update.pdf.

People can also call 211 to find a location, or, if they cannot get to a Cool Zone, ask for help with free transportation.

The county created the program two decades ago to give older adults, people with disabilities and those with health concerns that could be complicated by extreme heat a safe place during the hottest days of the year.

“Extreme heat can be especially dangerous for older adults and children, and everyone is recommended to shelter in cool locations when the temperatures get too hot,” a county statement said. “Working or exercising outside on a hot day or staying in a hot space too long can cause heat-related illnesses, from cramps, to exhaustion and heatstroke — a condition when the body can no longer control its temperature.”

Signs of heatstroke or exhaustion include having an extremely high body temperature — 103 degrees or higher — dizziness, nausea, confusion and headache. Anyone suffering these symptoms should call 911 and be cooled off immediately.

Additionally, the county, working with San Diego Gas & Electric, will provide free electric fans to older or disabled San Diegans living on limited incomes.

To be eligible for the fan program, county residents must be 60 years old or older, or disabled, living on limited income, must not have access to an air-conditioned space at their home or apartment building and unable to travel to a Cool Zone site.

To learn more about the fan program or to request a fan, call 211 or visit www.coolzones.org to complete a fan eligibility survey.

–City News Service