Interior Health is working with municipalities to develop a “heat alert and response” system ahead of a possible repeat of the heat dome that settled over B.C. last summer.
Dr. Sue Pollock, interim chief medical health officer for Interior Health, said the idea is to educate communities and organizations on how to plan and respond to situations of extreme heat, such as alerting the public, setting up cooling shelters and having systems in check to keep an eye on vulnerable people such as young children, the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.
Last summer, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued heat alerts after temperatures in some areas of the Southern Interior met or exceeded thresholds such as daytime temperatures of 35C and nighttime temps of 18C. Pollack noted that alerts are needed especially with climate projections for hotter temperatures year-round.
“We would amplify that, send it out to our channels to make sure they’re aware but also to provide advice for what people can do,” Pollack said, noting heat causes a continuum of illnesses such as heat rash, sunburn and sunstroke.
Besides providing communities with a toolkit, Interior Health is reminding residents to take measures to keep their homes cool, such as drawing the blinds during the day or having an air conditioner on hand.
“It’s a very serious situation and it is important to take the time we have now, when it’s not that hot, to prepare as much as we can. Overall, we will be seeing hotter summers. The number one thing people can be thinking about now is just how to prepare for it.”
In B.C., average annual temperature increases of 1.3 to 2.7C are expected by 2050, with projected impacts including more frequent and severe heat waves resulting in increased heat-related illnesses.