Hot and dry weather is forecast for many regions of B.C. and rising temperatures may put vulnerable seniors at risk. Currently, forecasted temperatures are not expected to rise to the level of an extreme heat emergency, however, they are forecast to be higher than normal and will create heat wave conditions in certain areas similar to what is experienced during most summers in B.C.
With higher temperatures expected, it is recommended that seniors take some additional precautions and family, friends and neighbours are encouraged to check in on older people to ensure they are keeping cool and well hydrated.
The dual focus during high temperatures is to keep the room cool and to keep the body cool.
“I encourage seniors and their loved ones to ensure they are prepared for the hot weather,” said Isobel Mackenzie, BC Seniors Advocate. “Please check regularly – in person if possible – on elderly family members and friends to make sure they can stay cool and hydrated.”
If the forecasted heat wave develops into an extreme heat emergency, the province will issue an Extreme Heat Emergency Alert which triggers a series of actions by public health officials and local and provincial governments to inform the public and keep people safe.
“An extreme heat emergency may require people to move family members to a cooling centre or get an air conditioning unit into their home,” Mackenzie said.
If someone is experiencing unusual confusion, vomiting or lethargy, immediately call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department. If you are concerned about your elderly family member or neighbour and you cannot make contact with them, call 9-1-1 for direction.
If you know a senior who needs help with getting groceries, meals or medication, call 2-1-1 to connect with the local Better at Home agency who can offer services and support.
In 2021, B.C. experienced record high temperatures in what was referred to as a “heat dome” and an “extreme heat emergency.” This weather event was different from the usual heat waves B.C. generally experiences each summer and was a significant risk to public health.
In response to the unprecedented emergency heat event of 2021, the provincial government undertook a number of reviews and developed a system of measures that will provide enhanced supports in the event B.C. experiences another extreme heat emergency.
Extreme heat emergencies are forecast to likely occur once or twice a decade, compared to heatwaves which are forecast to occur two to three times each summer and are considered a moderate risk to public health.
There are health measures that people can take to manage during a heat wave that are not sufficient during an extreme heat emergency.
It is much more difficult to cool rooms and homes during an extreme heat emergency, therefore some people must temporarily relocate to a cooler location or have mechanical ventilation, such as an air conditioner, available in their homes.