This Week’s Extreme Heat Shows Why We Need to Care for Each Other

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This Week’s Extreme Heat Shows Why We Need to Care for Each Other
A man handing out water during a heat wave.
Photo: Ted S. Warren (AP)

When the heat started building in the Pacific Northwest over the weekend, LeeAnn Floyd started having nightmares about people dying. Frustrated by what she said was a lack of any visible, detailed government or official suggestions for how to stay safe in a hot home, Floyd posted a thread of dozens of heat-beating tips to Twitter that soon went viral. The suggestions—ranging from what to eat to how to recognize heatstrokes to how to put “lightweight dress socks from the dollar tree” in the freezer to use as cooling aids—were crowdsourced, she said in a Twitter DM, from her own experiences and from “things that my grandparents and aunties did to keep our houses down south cool.”


Floyd, who said she’s been “desperately poor” for her whole life, put in a mutual aid callout in her thread: “If you only have 2 fans please drop your cashapp, PayPal, or venmo under this tweet and I will RT it because you’re gonna need more than 2 fans,” she wrote in one tweet. “This is not a 1 and Done event. You’ll be doing this every summer for the rest of our lives.” The tweet has dozens of responses from people asking for help to buy fans and other items.

Disaster aid agencies move slowly and funding can vary across states and cities. FEMA reimbursements and aid payouts can take months. In contrast, disasters like heat waves, fires, and floods are hitting unprepared cities with a vengeance, challenging already-broken infrastructure and creating new, immediate costs for struggling families. The government, which already struggles to help folks with their basic needs after decades of being hollowed out, is often ill-equipped to address those needs. A survey conducted last fall found that nearly two-thirds of Americans had been living paycheck-to-paycheck since covid-19 hit. During the pandemic, there was an explosion of mutual aid networks and a normalization of callouts for aid on social media. As we face mounting climate crises that test federal and local governments, mutual aid looks to be an effective way to help—and more people are starting to turn to it.

After reading Floyd’s thread, I was surprised at how comparatively little public information I could find on what to do and how to get help in a dangerous heat wave. The city of Seattle’s most visible resource on their main website is a list of cooling centers (most of which close after business hours), shelters for unhoused people, and pools and sprinklers; the list has a simple graphic up top instructing people to “find a cool or air-conditioned place to stay,” hydrate, and avoid time outside. A note at the bottom says that the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services is “distributing supplies to shelters.” The city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been sharing similar basic graphics and links to cooling centers, all a far cry from the extensive tips Floyd provided.