Cooling centers have played a significant role in reducing the risks of adverse health impacts of extreme heat exposure. However, there have been no comparative studies investigating cooling center preparedness in terms of population coverage, location efficiency, and population coverage disparities among different subpopulation groups. Using a catchment area method with a 0.8 km walking distance, we compared three aspects of cooling center preparedness across twenty-five cities in the U.S. We first calculated the percentage of the population covered by a single cooling center for each city. Then, the extracted values were separately compared to the city’s heat indexes, latitudes, and spatial patterns of cooling centers. Finally, we investigated population coverage disparities among multiple demographics (age, race/ethnicity) and socioeconomic (insurance, poverty) subpopulation groups by comparing the percentage of population coverage between selected subpopulation groups and reference subpopulation groups. Our results showed that cooler cities, higher latitude cities, and cities with dispersed cooling centers tend to be more prepared than warmer cities, lower latitude cities, and cities with clustered cooling centers across the U.S. Moreover, older people (≥65) had 9% lower population coverage than younger people (≤64). Our results suggest that the placement of future cooling centers should consider both the location of other nearby cooling centers and the spatial distribution of subpopulations to maximize population coverage and reduce access disparities among several subpopulations.
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