Beat the Heat

Helping Hoosiers cope with extreme heat

With average annual temperatures increasing across Indiana, Hoosiers are becoming more familiar with the risks of extreme summer heat, which include heat-related illness and death.

To help local governments develop and implement heat relief strategies and response protocols, ERI and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) launched “Beat the Heat” in 2021, selecting Clarksville and Richmond as the program’s inaugural participants.

Through Beat the Heat, both communities hired full-time heat relief coordinators to lead assessments, worked with community members, and developed projects and programs to help residents cope with the health impacts of extreme heat.



Meeting the challenge posed by hotter summers

According to the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, the number of extreme heat events will continue to rise significantly in all areas of the state due to climate change.

For example, extreme heat events in Clarksville are projected to double by 2050. In Richmond, those numbers are projected to triple.

Developing short- and long-term solutions to protect residents from the health impacts of hot days and nights is necessary for communities throughout the state.

Learn more about extreme heat in Indiana

Program timeline

Beat the Heat launched in May 2021 through a two-year grant provided by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The program concluded in April 2023.

  • Establish a heat relief task force that is composed of community member to guide the program
  • Hire a heat relief coordinator to lead the program

  • Collect community input on how heat impacts the lives of residents with a public survey, focus groups, and public observations
  • Conduct a Heat Watch campaign to develop a map of communities’ hottest and coolest places
  • Develop a protocol for identifying high-heat weather
  • Report findings to inform a strategy for mitigating the impacts of extreme heat

  • Develop a heat management strategy that plans for both short- and long-term responses to extreme heat
  • Host community meetings to share the results of the Heat Watch campaign, hear ideas from the public about managing heat, and hear feedback on the proposed heat management strategy
  • Work with local emergency management agencies to develop a response protocol for before and during extreme heat events

  • Share educational materials with community residents about staying cool and safe during extreme heat events
  • Implement the heat management strategy

  • Share a final public survey to assess Beat the Heat’s impact
  • Finalize the continuity plan to ensure future impact of Beat the Heat

Using data to identify at-risk neighborhoods

In 2021, Clarksville and Richmond participated in a national campaign to map the hottest parts of US cities, with guidance and technical support provided by CAPA Strategies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As part of the campaign, municipal staff and volunteers in Clarksville and Richmond gathered temperature data on a hot August day. Combined with sociodemographic data, these efforts resulted in the creation of detailed heat maps for both communities that identify areas that are most vulnerable to extreme heat.

View Clarksville Heat Watch story map          View Richmond Heat Watch story map

Working together to make community-specific plans

In 2022, Clarksville and Richmond published tailored plans to protect residents from the public health impacts of extreme heat, identifying specific strategies and actions each community could take. The plans were the result of months of public surveys, interviews, focus groups, and data collection.

Each heat management plan includes:

  • a response protocol outlining strategies to protect vulnerable residents when a heat wave is imminent
  • an outreach strategy, including educational campaigns and workshops, to increase community awareness about the dangers of extreme heat and what to do to treat heat-related illness
  • home cooling strategies to increase energy efficiency and ensure access to air conditioning, especially for low-income residents
  • ideas to combat heat through architectural and urban design—including green infrastructure like trees, green roofs, and more—which can have a significant impact on neighborhood air temperatures

View the Clarksville plan          View the Richmond plan (draft)

Spreading the word about the dangers of extreme heat

To help kick start conversations about summer heat throughout the state, the Beat the Heat team created a heat-preparedness toolbox that can be used by anyone to increase awareness about the public health impacts of extreme heat.

The toolbox includes:

  • social media graphics, flyers, pamphlets, and posters from the NWS, EPA, CDC, and OSHA
  • social media content about extreme heat that can be tailored to the needs and context of Indiana communities
  • a how-to guide on using the toolbox

Access the toolbox