Alert system, along with prevention and risk mitigation strategies needed following deadly 2021 'heat dome' event
A BC Coroner's Service report released June 7 is calling on the province to implement changes to the way people are informed about extreme heat events while protecting our most vulnerable residents.
In a report entitled “Extreme Heat and Human Mortality: A Review of Heat-Related Deaths in BC in Summer 2021," the BC Coroner's Service made three recommendations to build resilience and prevent future loss of life.
In response to the first of those recommendations, yesterday (June 6) the province announced the development of a HARS which will be put into place this summer.
The goal is to ensure that a coordinated province-wide heat alert system, along with better supports for vulnerable populations and more risk mitigation strategies are in place to combat extreme climate events like the “heat dome" experienced last year.
The initiative is an additional measure on top of existing funding available to First Nations and municipalities under the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to assist in extreme heat-risk mapping, assessment, and planning.
Given the urgency to develop a HARS framework for the summer season, the province has not yet engaged with communities, though some communities are proactively working on developing their own HARS programs. Feedback over this first summer of its deployment will inform the effectiveness of the HARS in communicating extreme heat events and trigger any necessary refinements.
The FNHA has been working with the province, speaking within our mandated roles and responsibilities to First Nations populations, to ensure risks to health from heat waves is communicated in timely, appropriate, and effective ways.
As well, the FNHA has been supporting the development of public health guidance and messaging surrounding heat for a variety of populations and communities across the province in a culturally informed and safe manner. This includes guidance on self-care and caring for individuals with vulnerabilities during heat events, such as those who are marginally housed, people with pre-existing health conditions, and Elders or young children.
The FNHA is developing climate change policies and programming and will be engaging with communities, including working with populations and regions most vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat.
For more information about the BC Heat Alert and Response System: bccdc.ca/extremeheat
PreparedBC's Heat Preparedness Guide: preparedbc.ca/extremeheat
Indigenous Climate Health Action Program: https://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/environmental-health/climate-health-action-program