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Climate and Weather Condition Preparedness

It’s important for youth programs to be prepared, alert, and informed about weather and climate conditions to prevent injuries and other health effects to you, your staff, and your participants. Youth programs must be prepared to respond appropriately to mitigate climate and weather impacts on youth and staff.

This guidance below provides action steps and resources to help UW youth programs prepare for and respond to climate and weather events that may impact your youth program. For more information and support, please contact us at

For immediate information regarding campus closure or weather updates that might impact normal operations, view the UW Alert blog and subscribe to their messages via text and email.

Climate Conditions

Below is University guidance specifically for youth programs, and resources on how to respond to extreme weather conditions. This guidance should be used in crafting operational policies and procedures.

Consult the extreme heat and wind grid to know when to keep children indoors or reduce activity. Keep in mind that youth and staff from northwestern Washington are not as used to extreme heat as those who live in hotter summer climates, so you might want to be especially proactive with providing adequate hydration and rest throughout hotter days.

Adjusting activities

Use the Heat Index instead of just a temperature reading. The Heat Index considers the relative humidity (moisture in the air) which can make it feel warmer than only using the temperature. (For example – “It’s 90 degrees today with a humidity of 55%, so it feels like 97 degrees”).

Classification Heat Index Effect on the body
Caution 80°F – 90°F Fatigue possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity
Extreme Caution 90°F – 103°F Heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity
Danger 103°F – 124°F Heat cramps or heat exhaustion likely, and heat stroke possible with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity
Extreme Danger 125°F or higher Heat stroke highly likely


Specific heat guidance

  • For temperatures in the yellow “caution” range:
    • consider modified activities, including more rest, or more time in shaded locations.
    • plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler; then gradually build up tolerance for warmer conditions.
    • pay attention to the cues children are giving them to ensure their safety.
  • For temperatures in the light orange “extreme caution” range:
    • Plan for extra rest time during the day.
    • If possible, modify your schedule to include more indoor time.
    • Cool off frequently.
    • Find shade, play with water, and/or go indoors; find an air-conditioned space, if possible.
    • Make sure to hydrate and eat more frequently.
    • Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings or louvers can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
    • Avoid sunburn, which slows the skin’s ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating. An early learning provider must receive written authorization from a child’s parent or guardian and health care provider with prescriptive authority prior to administering (WAC 110-330-0215).

For guidance on how to respond to outdoor heat exposure for your staff, the UW Environmental Health and Safety – Outdoor Heat Exposure will have information, resources, and guidance for employees on how to respond to exposure to excessive heat.

Please visit the Washington State Department of Health to learn more about the specific steps to take to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. This is a great resource to share with families to ensure safety at home.

Additional resources:

UW Environmental Health and Safety’s page on Wildfire Smoke provides information, resources, and guidance about responding to unsafe wildfire smoke conditions, including outdoor worker protections for personnel working outdoors for more than an hour.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used to determine the level of air pollution outdoors. Vehicle exhaust, wood stove emissions, industrial emissions, wildfire smoke, windblown dust, and other sources contain fine particle pollution (PM2.5) that can seriously affect our health.

Children are more sensitive to health effects from breathing in PM2.5 because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe in more air than adults for their body weight. Children with health conditions, such as asthma, have an even higher risk of health effects, including asthma attacks. Adult staff and volunteers may also be sensitive to air pollution. See WA Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution for more information.

The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. AQI values at or below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is unhealthy: at first for certain sensitive groups of people, including children, then for everyone as AQI values get higher.

Adjusting activities

The following public health recommendations to protect children from PM2.5 are designed for school activities and can be applied to child care, before/after school programs, camp, and sports programs for children (18 years and younger) by considering the duration of outdoor activities.

The Washington Children and Youth Activities Guide for Air Quality chart below provides guidance on appropriate duration and type of activities children can partake of outside depending on the AQI value.

Specific air quality guidance

  • For AQI levels in the yellow “moderate” column, monitor children with health conditions, allowing them to stay indoors for activities. Rest periods should increase for these children, as needed
  • For AQI levels in the orange “unhealthy for sensitive groups” column, keep children with health conditions indoors.
    • Keep outdoor activities light and allow for indoor activity alternatives.
    • Cancel or move outdoor activities to indoors or a different location.
  • For AQI levels in the red “unhealthy” and purple “hazardous” columns, keep all children indoors.
        • Outdoor activities and events should be canceled or moved to an area with safer air quality.

Schools may close or cancel outdoor activities when wildfire smoke becomes a health threat. Please read and download the Washington State Department of Health Summary Wildfire Smoke Guidance for Closing Schools to familiarize yourself with the circumstances and process that might take place if wildfire smoke increases to unhealthy levels for children.

Additional resources

UW Emergency Management’s Winter Storm webpage has information, resources, and guidance about responding to unsafe winter conditions.

Exposure to cold air temperatures puts workers at risk of cold stress. As wind speed increases, it causes the cold air temperature to feel even colder, increasing the risk of cold stress to exposed staff working outdoors and children playing outdoors

Children are more susceptible to hypothermia if exposed to cold temperatures for too long without inadequate protection. Without proper preparation or awareness of outside conditions, children and staff may risk serious injury.

Adjusting activities

Use the table below to understand when children should remain indoors depending on temperatures and wind speed.

Specific snow and cold weather guidance

  • When conditions are green, children may play outdoors and be comfortable with appropriate clothing.
    • Watch for signs of children becoming uncomfortable while playing. Use precautions regarding clothing and beverages for all child age groups.
    • In cooler or cold months, dress children in layers to keep them warm.
  • When conditions are yellow, use caution and closely observe the children for signs of being too cold while outdoors.
    • Clothing and beverages are extremely crucial. Length of outdoor time should be reduced greatly.
  • When conditions are red, most children should not play outdoors due to the health risk.
    • Child care providers must be vigilant about maximum protection of children.
  • During snow events, in addition to University closures and late starts, a youth program may choose to align procedures with a nearby school district’s closure status.

Additional Resources

County Specific Guidance

University youth programs occur in various locations throughout the state of Washington. Below is guidance from counties in Washington in which University properties are located, about how to respond to unusual weather or outdoor conditions. To view resources in your local area, please visit your local county public health pages.

  • The King County Child Care Health Program provides resources, videos, and guidance on how to keep youth protected in different weather conditions and outdoor environments. This page is specifically designed to advise youth providers about air quality, outdoor safety, and weather.
  • The King County Emergency Management webpage has dedicated information pages for unique emergency hazards such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, winter storms, power outages, and more.

  • The Yakima County Emergency Preparedness webpage provides guidance and information on how to make a plan in case of an environmental emergency.
  • The Yakima School District shares resources to use when determining the level of safe air quality for children to go outside for an extended period of time.