A Warming Center is a facility that has been opened for short term operations due to a specific emergency or event. They are normally opened when temperatures or a combination of precipitation, wind chill, wind and temperatures have or may become dangerous. Their paramount purpose is the prevention of death and injury related to exposure to the elements. Warming centers can help stranded motorists, or residents that have lost critical services. Some warming centers may provide limited food, showers, charging stations and places to rest.
A General Population shelter (aka Emergency shelter) is a place for people to live temporarily when they cannot live in their current residence. The main difference between a warming center and emergency shelter is that an emergency shelter typically specializes in people fleeing a specific type of situation, such as natural or man-made disasters. Another difference from a warming center is that people staying in emergency shelters are provided places to sleep and/or eat for an extended period. If the shelter is run by the Red Cross facilities are ADA compliant and non-acute medical care and disaster mental health services are available.