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Health News: Hot Weather Alerts To Be Coordinated
Submitted. Starting this summer, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health will coordinate with Environment Canada to issue heat alerts and a new Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory when extended periods of hot weather pose a threat to public health.
This new alerting system is a response to heat-related deaths that occurred in July 2009, when a week-long heat wave featured temperatures of 34-degrees Celsius at Vancouver International Airport and 38-degrees Celsius in Abbotsford.
“Everybody appreciates warm weather, but we sometimes fail to realize the dangers of severe heat,” said Environment Canada Warning Preparedness Meteorologist David Jones. “The Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory will tell people that a hot spell is moving to another level, and they need to take immediate action to stay safe.”
Currently, Environment Canada issues a public Special Weather Statement when temperatures on successive days in the Lower Mainland are projected to exceed 32-degrees Celsius. Now, medical health officers will turn that Special Weather Statement into a special hot weather news release. This release will include tips the public can use to beat the heat.
“In effect the hot weather news release would be a signal for municipalities and the general public to get ready, hot weather is on the way,” said VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Meena Dawar.
If Environment Canada forecasts for even more intense heat, it will issue a new public Extreme Heat-Wave Advisory. Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health will support this advisory by issuing news releases of their own.
These actions are intended to trigger municipal heat response plans. These plans include education messages to the public and vulnerable populations, advice about cooling centres and water stations, or considerations for outdoor events including water availability and schedule changes.
“The Extreme Heat Wave Advisory will alert people to the fact that they need to take immediate action to stay safe in the heat,” said Dr. Tom Kosatsky from the BC Centre for Disease Control, the agency that conducted the heat mortality analysis that gave rise to this warning system. “These temperatures were associated with excess heat related deaths in the Lower Mainland in 2009. We, thus, want to encourage people to stay cool and hydrated and make contact with their elderly family members or neighbours to ensure that they, too, are able to seek respite from the heat.”
Both hot weather news releases and Extreme Heat Wave Advisories will include the following tips:
1. Stay hydrated
Drink cool non alcoholic beverages (preferably water) irrespective of your activity intake. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask about increasing the amount of water you can drink while the weather is hot.
2. Keep cool
Spend at least several hours every day in an air-conditioned facility (such as a shopping centre, library, community centre or restaurant).
Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.
At current temperatures, fans alone are not effective. Applying cool water mist or wet towels to your body prior to sitting in front of a fan is a quick way to cool off.
Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light-weight clothing. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Keep your home cool. Open windows, close shades, use an air conditioner and prepare meals that do not require an oven.
Avoid sunburn, stay in the shade or use sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
Avoid tiring work or exercise in the heat. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit outdoor activity during the day to early morning and evening.
NEVER leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52°C (125°F) within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 34°C (93°F). Leaving the car windows slightly open or “cracked” will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
3. Check in on others
People living alone are at high risk of severe heat related illness. Check regularly on older people, those who are unable to leave their homes and anyone who may not be spending at least several hours every day in air conditioned places for signs of heat-related illness.
Ask whether people know how to prevent heat-related illness and are doing the same.
If they are unwell, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated and call for medical assistance if required.
4. Get informed.
Listen to local news and weather channels.
For more information on heat-related illness, call HealthLink BC at 811.
Contact your local government to find out what services (such as air conditioned buildings and public splash parks) are available in your area.