B.C. has developed a heat response alerting system to inform people in the province about extreme heat events and about steps people can take to stay safe from heat-related illness.
The B.C. Heat Alert Response System (HARS) has two-tiers to alert the province of heat events.
Under the system, a tier one response would be triggered if Environment and Climate Change Canada says daytime temperatures will reach a certain temperature then the nighttime temperatures do not fall below a certain temperature. The second tier would be triggered if these temperatures are expected for three days in a row.
The regional temperatures are:
- Southwest: daytime high of 29 C, nighttime low of 16 C (including Vancouver Island, except the northern part)
- Fraser: daytime high of 33 C, nighttime low of 17 C
- Southeast (Largely interior region of BC): daytime high of 35 C, nighttime low of 18 C
- Northeast: daytime high of 29 C, nighttime low of 14 C
- Northwest: daytime high of 28 C, nighttime low of 13 C (including northern Vancouver Island)
The alerts will be sent through the national alerting system to inform people of the incoming heat.
The province has also put together a resource on how to deal with extreme heat.
“Part of the plan is to identify cool zones inside and outside of your home, such as community centers libraries or mall identify neighbours and family members who may be at risk during a heat event,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general.
“If heat has a severe impact on you or you live in a building that gets very hot planned to go elsewhere during the event. If you live alone and need extra help pick someone to check on when temperatures rise.”
Last summer, a heat dome settled over western Canada and the coroner said 619 people died due to the heat in the province.
At the time, the government faced criticism for its handling of the heat dome in June and July 2021.
B.C.’s Premier John Horgan said government officials were focused on the lifting COVID-19 restrictions and did not anticipate how deadly the heat would be.
Premier John Horgan says his government was faced with a 'perfect storm' of extreme heat, reopening the province and a surge in wildfire activity this past week. https://t.co/yihRi2i4u7 pic.twitter.com/GhayI2wgUJ
— CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) July 7, 2021
During the heat dome, ambulance services particularly in the Lower Mainland were overwhelmed with calls, and Lytton reached a record high temperature before a forest fire started which destroyed most homes and buildings in the town.
“This plan includes several measures to ensure our ambulance system is ready to respond to significant increase in 911 calls during the heat events,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health. “For instance, staffing will be reassigned to support areas experiencing higher call volumes, and we may take measures to reduce turnaround times at hospital.”
Dix says the heat alerts will include information about health signs to watch out for.
“The new alerts will give people the signs of heatstroke and remind them to check on neighbours, friends and family members,” Dix said. “Other key aspects of the BC HARS is it alerts decision makers to take preventative actions to protect public health.”
With a file from CBC.
A previous version of this story said 595 people died due to the heat dome. On June 7, one day after publishing, the BC Coroner released an updated report that said 619 people died due to the heat dome. The story has been updated to reflect the new information.