The University of Victoria and the Capital Regional District are teaming up for a research project to learn more about how the 2021 heat dome event affected vulnerable populations.
The deadly extreme heat event was linked to 619 deaths in the province, with 55 of those living on Vancouver Island. According to the BC Coroner’s Office, many of those who died from the heat were elderly and lived with chronic illnesses.
A government report laid out recommendations such as implementing a coordinated provincial heat alert and laying out long-term prevention strategies.
However, researcher Dr. Sarah Wiebe, Associate Professor at UVic, says that there are vulnerable groups who haven’t shared their experiences during the heat dome.
In collaboration with the CRD, she’s launching a survey intended for those most vulnerable to extreme heat exposure.
“We haven’t heard from the voices of isolated seniors, we haven’t from the voices of newcomers to Canada. We haven’t heard from those who are pregnant or nursing,” said Wiebe.
Other groups that are being asked to participate include temporary migrant workers, unhoused peoples, people living with disabilities, and those who live alone. The survey consists of 30 questions, and those who fill it out will also be automatically be entered to win a $50 gift certificate.
The project also aims to get a better understanding on the impact to health when food systems are affected, such as the deaths of marine life from heat events.
“For example, First Nations communities along the coastlines…who rely on fisheries, clam gardens, and other sources of marine life for well being. If those relations and forms of sustenance are harmed or damaged, that affects the well-being of human health,” said Wiebe.
When she was approached by the CRD to lead this project, Wiebe did not hesitate and says that her own lived experience during the heat dome made her want to seek out answers.
“I had just given birth myself to a newborn and was nursing and experienced the heat dome. Trying to keep cool, trying to keep my son cool and ended up in the emergency [room] in the wake of the heat dome due to extreme dehydration,” said Wiebe.
The survey takes around 15 minutes to complete. After reviewing the information gather, Wiebe expects a full report to be completed by September.
Participants can also share their story via email at [email protected]