The province’s top emergency officials are urging British Columbians to prepare for what they anticipate will be the longest heat wave of the summer, and the possibility it will lead to health issues for some.
Temperatures of around 30 C in coastal areas, mid-30s inland, and high 30s for the interior and expected to last for days.
“Vancouver Island, South Coast and southwestern Interior – those are locations we’re going to be watching closely for heat warnings starting as early as Sunday,” said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist, Bobby Sekhon, who added shorter days and longer nights with cooler temperatures would provide some relief.
Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry urged people to have a cool space to find refuge during the hottest parts of the day since the days-long stretch of hot weather means “there’s an accumulation of heat that can lead to increased risk of heat-related illness in people.”
A Thursday morning press conference highlighting officials’ concerns was led by the emergency management minister, who emphasized the province-wide cooperation between health officials, provincial departments and agencies, as well as municipalities in making preparations – which include opening public cooling centres when heat warning criteria are reached.
“Most British Columbians have the tools available to them in their homes, in their communities, to keep themselves safe during heat events when they are aware of the hazards and risks,” said Bowinn Ma.
The Heat Alert Response System is being assessed several times a week in meetings with the province’s heat committee.
HOSPITALS A KEY CONCERN
Several hospitals in the province are already struggling to maintain consistent services in emergency departments and for in-patient units amid a severe summer staffing shortage, raising questions about whether they can handle an influx of patients with heat-related illnesses.
“We have a strong heat response team provincially and each health authority will be looking at where we’re likely to see the impacts most, making sure we have things in place in the community and looking at the health services we need to support if we see a surge in people,” said Henry, adding that this includes the ambulance service.
A coroners’ report into the 2021 heat dome found nearly all of the 619 people who died in the oppressive heat were indoors, most of them seniors who lived alone.
Six weeks ago the province launched a program to provide free air conditioning units to at-risk British Columbians. BC Hydro says since then, 3,000 people have applied, 2,000 have been approved, and 360 units have been installed.
HEAT DOME FATALITIES STILL LOOM
While insufficient planning by the province’s ambulance service, a communications failure, and a distracted government all contributed to a late and lackluster response to the record-shattering heat of the 2021 heat dome, British Columbia continues to see heat-related deaths. These types of fatalities have been nearly non-existent in the past.
Last year, 16 deaths were likely due to extreme heat, and so far this year another three are suspected to be the result of hyperthermia.
CTV News asked Ma whether she felt that enough lessons had been learned from the horrific death toll from the heat dome and if enough was being done to safeguard people considering more had likely died from extreme heat in recent months.
“We have learned a lot from the heat dome experience of 2021, most significantly we learned that heat deaths can happen here in Canada,” said Ma. “Two or three years ago, extreme heat wasn’t necessarily seen as a hazard that Canadians could be subject to.”
Source : CTV News