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Heat Islands

Reduce Heat Island Risks

Local governments can take steps to help residents, infrastructure, and systems reduce their vulnerability to heat, both in response to an extreme heat event and as part of longer-term planning to lessen future risks

To safeguard against the acute effects of extreme heat on people’s health in the short term, local officials can establish early warning systems and urban cooling centers, and raise awareness about risk factors, symptoms of heat-related illness, and when and how to seek treatment.  In addition, they can protect or modify roads, train tracks, and other infrastructure by using more resilient materials, as well as implement energy efficiency measures to reduce disruptions of city services and stress on electricity systems during heat waves.

To reduce the heat island effect and its associated risks over the longer term, communities can use four main strategies:

Typically heat island mitigation is part of a community's energy, air quality, water, or sustainability effort. Some Smart Growth activities also contribute to heat island mitigation, or vice versa.

Activities to reduce heat islands range from voluntary initiatives, such as cool pavement demonstration projects, to policy actions, such as requiring cool roofs via building codes. Most mitigation activities have multiple benefits, including cleaner air, improved human health and comfort, reduced energy costs, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Heat island mitigation can also help cities reduce the impacts of climate change.

To learn more, follow the links in the “For More Information” box above. Also see the Heat Island Reduction Activities chapter in EPA’s Heat Island Guide.