Organization: Arizona State University
Lead Researchers: Jennifer Vanos, Adora Shortridge, David Hondula, Melissa Guardaro, Dave White, Mary Munoz-Encinas
Schools are hubs for their surrounding community, connecting parents, teachers, children, and families. Hence, the heat conditions at schools, as well as their preparedness and policies for managing extreme heat, impact multiple aspects of the community. However, minimal attention has been paid to formalizing school heat preparedness, ensuring their ability to mitigate the effects of high temperatures on the health and education of students. Since commencing in 2017, this project has sought to improve the safety and protection measures for children exposed to extreme heat during the school day by understanding the important factors for becoming a HeatReady School. We define HeatReady Schools as those that are increasingly able to identify, prepare for, mitigate, track, and respond to the negative impacts of schoolground heat (Shortridge et al., 2021). Through this research, we have improved our understanding of how people perceive and react to heat emergencies, as well as what actions are taken at the school level to mitigate their effects. Based on interviews with key stakeholders, we have gauged the effectiveness of existing heat preparedness actions at schools in the Phoenix area. Our thirty final recommendations based on five action areas (raining, prevention, school policy, community, and environment) are providing important “HeatReady” actions that can be applied or adapted for various school contexts and/or climate regions. To date, we have reached over 30 schools and community centers utilizing HeatReady Schools resources, a number that continues to grow. We have also created a HeatReady Schools growth tree and rubric, share numerous resources with our members, and have developed multiple training resources for schools to leverage (e.g., Bilingual K-12 Summer Emergency Preparedness course, HeatReady Teacher Training). These trainings also support work within HeatReady Neighborhoods, within which schools are a critical player for heat readiness.