Municipal resources for healthy cities during extreme-heat events

Written by Amy Lubik, Environmental Health and Knowledge Translation Scientist, BC CDC. Amy is also a longtime participant in our civic governance forums.

Taking heat to heart: local government climate change leadership can play a key role in protecting the health of citizens.

Extreme heat is a rarity in coastal Vancouver. However, in Vancouver, in 2009, 110 persons died during a week-long extreme heat event.

With a changing climate, BC is expected to experience a continued increase in average summer temperatures and in extremely hot days.

Surprisingly, it is not always the actual temperature, but rather the change in temperatures to which people are accustomed, and with it the lack adaptation to higher temperatures, that may put people at risk of heat-related illness and death (Health Canada, 2012).

A report from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) showed BC’s coastal and northern regions, where populations are least adapted to higher temperatures, have the highest heat impact per degree on mortality and susceptibility to extreme heat.

Additionally, certain segments of the population are most at risk of heat-related illness, including seniors, people on specific medications, low income and socially isolated people, and young children.

BCCDC investigated the state of planning and preparedness, emergency response, and long-term adaption strategies to extreme heat and climate change in BC in the report: Review of Municipal Heat Response Planning in British Columbia, Canada

This report provides useful information for planning, including:

  • An overview of the health impacts of extreme heat events, which segments of the population are most vulnerable, and how cities can effectively help mitigate impacts.
  • Interviews on extreme heat preparedness with representatives from BC health authorities and emergency preparedness organizations exploring challenges and priorities are in planning for extreme heat.
  • Links to and comparison of extreme heat response planning documents from BC municipalities, including Vancouver and Pitt Meadows, showing preparedness in large and small municipalities.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Relatively few BC municipalities have formalized heat plans, although most have some climate change adaptation and/or mitigation strategies, or at least in the process of developing them. Those that have plans are primarily in the coastal region.
  • Many municipalities feel hampered by a lack of resources and/or personnel capacity to prepare for extreme heat or to identify and map the most vulnerable segments of the population.
  • Municipalities need to be aware that socially isolated citizens are at greater risk for heat-related illness, just as in almost all emergency situations, climate change related or not.

Findings from the report spurred researchers to prepare Developing a Municipal Heat Response Plan: A Guide for Medium-sized Municipalities. This guidance document aims to provide best practices for how to integrate heat preparedness into existing emergency plans. It includes the following elements:

  • Asset management, i.e., taking stock of physical resources, non-profit organization and health authority supports, and communications strategies.
  • Tips for assembling an emergency planning group and low resource solutions to mapping vulnerable citizens and populations.
  • Information on how to establish an activation/ deactivation protocol. Protocol implementation checklist.
  • Suggestions for the evaluation of extreme heat strategies.

Once municipalities take heat to heart, they will find that they generally have the resources and assets they need to develop an extreme heat plan, which can be adapted to pre-existing emergency plans.

Exclusive limited time offer: On-demand course on pronouns and inclusive language

As a forward-thinking leader, you know that inclusive language is one of the most powerful ways to break down barriers to inclusion and to build sustainable and inclusive communities. Being current with pronouns and knowing inclusive greetings and phrases is important for locally-elected community leaders.

We’re happy to offer a unique on-demand course on Pronouns and Inclusive Language that will help keep your communications on track.

This two-hour, two-credit course was co-written by Tracy Humphreys, who joined us at 2018 High Ground for a workshop on Serving Students With Special Needs – Closing the Equity Gap and who works with CareQuadrant, the course host. 


Just enter HighGround18, and you’ll receive a special rate
of $60 (40% off the regular price) available until May 31.

The certified course is pre-approved by law societies and counselling organizations and offers continuing professional development credits through other professional organizations. You can study anytime from anywhere with Internet access. It’s a great opportunity!

Try an activity

To give you a taste of what the course offers, here’s a fun exercise. Download Worksheet – Mapping Cultural Groups In Your Community

Let us know if you have any questions!

Here’s what we’ve heard about the course:

“The Pronouns and Inclusive Language course from CareQuadrant is not only comprehensive and easy to follow, it also provides great current examples to wrap your head around how to use inclusive language every day. Take your knowledge and understanding of inclusive language to the next level with this course. As someone who thought they were already knowledgeable and expressive using inclusive language, I still had more takeaways from this course. You don’t know what you don’t know!”
Cindy Dalglish, Trustee Candidate, Surrey School District