Citing heat emergency, DC opens some pools and rec centers on Juneteenth

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D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency is the point team that works with the National Weather Service as the city tries to plan ahead and learn what future weather patterns can bring.

Early last week, the city agency looked at what temperatures could be last Thursday and Friday. And then late last week, NWS started sending notifications about the extreme heat projected to reach the D.C. region this week.

As the forecast called for — and what has now turned into — an extended heat emergency, Clint Osborn, the agency’s acting director, consulted other city entities to figure out what the needs of the public would be.

The calendar presented an obstacle. D.C. pools weren’t scheduled to start operating on a weekday schedule until later this month, and recreation centers were set to be closed for Juneteenth on Wednesday.

That set agencies scrambling for possible contingencies with the hope of putting together a plan that Mayor Muriel Bowser ultimately had to approve.

Now, select pools, including one in each ward, and certain recreation centers are scheduled to be open Wednesday, despite the holiday and other city plans.

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The flexibility, Osborn said, is essential in making sure D.C. is offering what residents need.

“We collect the community need. We work with the agencies to identify the way forward, and then we take it up to the mayor for a decision,” Osborn said. “As we do that throughout the week, things tend to change as we work through the week and work through solutions.”

The final decision was essential, Osborn said, because other city services usually offered at neighborhood hubs such as libraries won’t be offered Wednesday because of the holiday.

“Because some of our other cooling centers, like libraries, are going to be closed for the holiday, (the Department of Parks and Recreation) opened a number of pools and rec centers, to make sure that everybody throughout the District has some place to go if they can’t cool off at home,” Osborn said.

Now, the agency is using the summer’s first major heat wave to ensure residents have some way of finding out there’s an extreme weather pattern on the way. For some, that means signing up for city alerts, Osborn said.

HSEMA is also working with other groups to make sure residents experiencing homelessness also have a way to know and prepare for whatever weather may be coming.

“Our residents who are experiencing homelessness, they don’t necessarily have the relief after hours that some of us do,” Osborn said. “So (these agencies have) increased their patrols and services and supports throughout the community for the next few days as we sort of ride out this heat wave.”

Residents should familiarize themselves with signs and symptoms of heat injuries, stay hydrated and rest as needed.

“Check in on your neighbors, especially seniors and young children, make sure that they have what they need,” Osborn said. “They’re some of our most vulnerable to heat-related issues and injuries.”

It’s also essential for drivers to double check their cars to make sure they’re not leaving a child or pet behind, he added.

For more information on pools and city recreation centers open on Wednesday, visit the Department of Parks and Recreation website.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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