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Extreme heat should be public health emergency, says Delta

There is currently no mechanism for municipalities to receive provincial support during extreme heat
delta bc heatwave
The impacts of last year’s heat dome were described as particularly serious because people in this region are unaccustomed to extreme heat.

The City of Delta wants municipalities to have some financial help from the province to help residents during extreme heat events.

That’s according to one of several resolutions Delta is putting forward at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities convention Sept. 12 to 16 in Whistler.

The motion submitted to the UBCM for consideration, asks for the government to recognize extreme heat events as public health emergencies, similar to the Extreme Weather Response program, as well as providing funding for municipal response measures to ensure the public has access to cooling centres and other assistance.

A Delta staff report notes municipalities are on the front line when it comes to responding to extreme heat events and last summer many municipalities opened cooling centres in civic buildings and libraries equipped with air conditioning, as well as providing water and places for people to rest out of the heat.

Some municipalities also provided misting stations and extended waterpark operations, while some also provided transportation.

“Many municipalities collaborated with community organizations to reach vulnerable residents, such as seniors living alone and people experiencing homelessness. The costs for providing these extra services are borne by each municipality and as municipalities prepare for future heat dome events, provincial funding will be needed to continue to support such efforts,” the report notes. “Similar to the Extreme Weather Response program, which is a provincially funded initiative that supports temporary emergency shelter spaces during periods of extreme winter weather, provincial funding should be made available for municipalities to provide cooling centres and other services during extreme heat events.”

The City of Delta has developed a communications strategy and is taking other steps to be better prepared in case of another deadly heat dome.

The provincial government last month announced it is launching the BC Heat Alert and Response System (BC HARS) to help ensure local governments have the tools they need to stay safe during heat events.

Under BC HARS, the province is prepared to issue a Broadcast Intrusive alert for extreme heat emergencies.

The province said it is also bringing in additional measures to bolster B.C.'s ambulance system to better respond to a significant increase in 9-1-1 calls during a heat emergency.