Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Participatory Modeling of the Phoenix Heat Relief Network Cooling Centers

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Joshua Uebelherr, David Hondula and Erik Johnston, Arizona State University
Climate change and urbanization are anticipated to bring increasingly severe and more frequent extreme heat events to the greater Phoenix area.  Public health efforts to reduce heat related mortality risk includes the Heat Relief Network (HRN) of cooling centers since 2006.  The cooling centers are a collection of self-selecting voluntary public and nonprofit organizations that offer their facilities as a cool space during the summer months.  This research uses facility manager and participatory modeling interviews to find improved ways to leverage communication and coordination of cooling centers.  Cooling center facility manager interviews were conducted in partnership with Maricopa County Department of Public Health and Arizona Department of Public Health agencies during the summer 2014.  Participatory modeling interviews were used to improve a prototype agent based model of the HRN cooling centers in 2015 with HRN professionals to improve the model as a decision support tool.  Although heat relief is not any of the HRN cooling centers’ primary function, these organizations generally serve populations at risk to extreme heat. 

An important result of the interviews is that most cooling centers are not connected with other cooling centers that would allow sharing of unevenly distributed resources and coordination of service availability. When network connections with other cooling centers were encountered during cooling center manager interviews, they were either directly connected to the central HRN through annual participation recruitment contact or to local informal networks related to the organization’s normal operations.  These interviews reveal that many cooling centers contact local informal network members for bottled water donation.   The scarcity of network connections suggests that increasing these connections could be useful in increasing contextual awareness of individual cooling centers as part of a larger network rather than operating in isolation.  Including formal and informal network connections and jurisdictional boundaries were also found to be important based on interview results.