Heat Alert and Response Systems in Urban and Rural Communities in Canada

Peter Berry 1 , Anna Yusa 2 , Toni Morris-Oswald 3  and Anastasia Rogaeva 1
  • 1 Climate Change and Health Office, Health Canada
  • 2 Environmental Health Program, Health Canada
  • 3 Office of Disaster Management, Manitoba Health

Abstract

Health Canada reviewed national and international literature to develop a framework that identifies best practices for developing and implementing Heat Alert and Response Systems (HARS) to protect citizens from extreme heat events. A comparative case study was conducted based upon the framework and the experiences of two Canadian jurisdictions that piloted many of the best practices in the development of new HARS. Table-top exercises, heat-health vulnerability assessments, and community consultations were used to inform the development and implementation of HARS plans. Implementation of the framework by local authorities revealed different and unique challenges facing rural and urban communities in protecting people from extreme heat events. Opportunities within each pilot for taking effective public health adaptive actions that draw upon existing strengths and resources were also identified. Key aspects of HARS development including those related to education and engagement, development of an alert protocol, creation of a heat response plan, and identification of communication activities should be tailored to the needs of individual communities or regions and be informed by specific characteristics related to existing and future vulnerability.

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