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Keeping cool in Kensington: What to expect from the heat and how to stay safe as temperatures rise

Editor’s note: This story was updated on August 15, 2022.

With the City of Philadelphia issuing its latest heat health emergency until Tuesday, staying safe and cool is an ever-growing priority for everyone. 

Last June was the 6th warmest June on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the Philadelphia Heat Vulnerability Index, areas of Upper Kensington can experience temperatures up to 6.3 degrees hotter than the city’s average temperature. 

Key factors causing the high temperatures are the number of tall buildings, roads and pavements, and a lack of trees or other natural ways of limiting CO2 and reducing heat. These conditions are a part of what’s called an “urban heat effect.” Because of this, certain areas of Philadelphia are a lot hotter than others, which makes people who live within them more at risk of heat-related illnesses.   

People who are at most risk of a heat-related illness:

  • Children
  • People without air conditioning
  • People who live alone
  • People who are homebound
  • People with chronic conditions
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Older adults

Heat-related illnesses can include the following:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat rash
  • Heat stroke
  • Sunburn

Depending on which heat-related illness you’re experiencing, there are different ways to treat it. To learn more about symptoms and treatment options, click here

Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to stay cool in Kensington

There are ways to stay safe and cool in the heat this summer. For example, wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. And, if possible, stay indoors as much as you can. However, that’s easier said than done for some Kensington residents, especially people without AC or housing. That’s why we put together this list of different resources and tips.

Use air conditioners and (sometimes) fans

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health recommends staying in air-conditioned spaces and not going outside between the hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to a webinar hosted by the health department on June 29. Those hours are typically the hottest times of the day.

In addition, do not use a fan during high temperatures. Fans do not bring cool air in but rather circulate the air around you, according to Ready, a public service campaign. Recirculating hot air can increase the effects of heat sickness. 

For households experiencing economic hardship, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides financial help with heating and cooling bills year-round, energy crisis assistance, and weather-related home repairs.

Funds Y’all, a Philly-based mutual aid organization, is currently fundraising to purchase cooling devices for families in need in Philadelphia and South Jersey. The organization is also accepting donations of new/used air conditioners and fans in good condition to redistribute. 

Update: The waitlist for an AC unit or fan is closed. To donate, click here

Don’t have an AC unit? Visit one of the city’s cooling centers

In the event of extreme heat, the City declares a heat health emergency and opens cooling centers at libraries and sometimes other air-conditioned public spaces throughout the city. To find a cooling center, click here. The closest cooling center in the Kensington area is the Lillian Marrero Library located at 601 W. Lehigh Ave. During heat emergencies, its operating hours are extended from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Please note that sections of the Lillian Marrero Library are temporarily closed as it undergoes HVAC repairs. The library’s meeting room still has air conditioning and will be available for public use. 

Read more: Free Library’s Lillian Marrero remains closed for 19th day due to stolen HVAC parts, but cooling center is open

Update: On August 8, the City announced that cooling buses with air conditioning will be available for the public today and tomorrow. The closest one to Kensington is at the intersection of Germantown and Allegheny avenues. 

Hours of operation:

  • Monday, August 8: noon – 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 9: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

For additional bus locations and information, click here.

Stay hydrated 

On hot days, sweat can evaporate quicker off the body, making it difficult to cool off. This is why it’s important to stay hydrated to replace the fluids that you lost. 

Community fridges, which are free and open 24/7, will likely be stocked with drinks. If you have water or juices that you’d like to share with a neighbor in need, you can leave donations in a community fridge. Make sure that any drinks that you leave or take are sealed. 

Coral Street Fridge

2670 Coral Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Mama Tee Community Fridge

2400 Coral Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125

The Simple Way’s Community Fridge and Pantry

3234 Potter Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134

Visit a local pool or sprayground

COVID-19 and staff shortages have resulted in many Philadelphia pools being closed over the past few years. This year, more than 80% of Philadelphia pools have reopened for the summer. In the Kensington area, several pools and spraygrounds are open this summer like Scanlon Pool and Jose Manuel Collazo Park’s sprayground. Note that Heitzman pool is closed as the recreation center undergoes renovations. 

Update: As of July 22, McVeigh Pool is now closed for the season after three swimmers reportedly assaulted pool staff and vandalized their personal property following an altercation on July 21. 

McVeigh Recreation Center’s summer camp will remain open, and the City is encouraging swimmers to use Scanlon Pool instead. Free swimming lessons and daily open swim remain available at Scanlon. There will be a police presence at Scanlon Pool for the rest of the summer. 

To find pools in the area, click here. To find a sprayground, click here. Please check individual hours of operation at these locations.

Still in need of extra assistance? Give one of these organizations a call. 

There are multiple organizations in Philadelphia with hotlines to call and speak to someone, whether or not a heat emergency is in place. 

Editors: Jillian Bauer-Reese, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Siani Colón

Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.