Heat Preparedness

June 17, 2024

Dear members of the Columbia Community:

We are entering summer’s first heat wave with heat indices possibly nearing 100 degrees and air quality impacts expected in the region. 

During these extreme conditions, there is a greater risk of electrical blackouts due to increased energy use for air conditioning. You can stay safe and help Columbia conserve energy by following these simple steps during the heat wave and throughout these hot summer months.


  • Turn off air conditioners when a room is unoccupied 
  • Set air conditioner fan speeds to the lowest setting possible and keep thermostats at higher temperatures for energy conservation 
  • Keep exterior doors, windows, shades and blinds closed 
  • Turn lights, appliances and electronics off when not needed 
  • Make sure cell phones and any portable chargers/power packs are fully charged 
  • Prepare your laboratory. Connect critical equipment to emergency outlets, shut down unattended experiments, limit highly hazardous experiments due to the possibility of power outages, and secure any temperature-sensitive materials which require refrigeration or those which may become unstable at elevated ambient temperatures, in accordance with their Safety Data Sheets 
  • Familiarize yourself with emergency protocols in the event of a power outage 
  • In the event of a power outage, please follow the Columbia University on X for updates 


During the day, Facilities and Operations staff are optimizing the use of our steam chillers to cool buildings and minimizing the use of our electric chillers to reduce the total electric load on our system. At night, we are “pre-cooling” buildings, which reduces energy demand during peak daytime hours.  Our Facilities Services Center (212-854-2222) is prepared to handle increased call volume.   


In addition to saving energy, keep in mind these additional tips from the American Red Cross to stay safe and cool this summer: 

  • Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect some of the sun's energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or use an umbrella. 
  • Stay hydrated. Carry water with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. 
  • Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.  
  • Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. 


Get more energy saving tips from Con Edison and learn how to beat the heat from NYC Emergency Management.


We are here to help. Contact the Facilities Services Center at 212-854-2222 with any issues or concerns.  In the event of an on-campus emergency, contact Public Safety at 212-854-5555 (Morningside Campus) or 212-853-3333 (Manhattanville Campus). 


Gerry McGillian
Vice President, Operations
Columbia University Facilities and Operations