Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Fredericton to Participate in Heat Alert Pilot Project (May 4, 2010)
Three-level system designed to protect most vulnerable from heat related illness
Fredericton will be one of four Canadian communities to participate in a heat alert pilot project during the summer of 2010. The three-level system is designed to protect the public, especially the most vulnerable, from heat-related illness.

The effort is part of a Health Canada Extreme Heat and Health Project, and is being coordinated at the provincial level by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. The City of Fredericton’s Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) Committee serves as the municipal contact.

Over the next 40 years it is expected that the number of days above 30ÂșC in Fredericton will triple. Research and past experience shows that heat is a major health risk.

Communications around extreme heat events will be a key component in protecting citizens. Timely and accurate information must be distributed. Individuals and organizations will need to become more aware of the threats from extreme heat and what actions to take to protect themselves and others in their care.

To assist in this regard, a Heat Alert and Response System (HARS) has been developed. The goal is to reduce heat-related illness and deaths in the public, especially the most vulnerable such as older adults, young children and the socially disadvantaged.

Using temperature and humidex information, three alert levels may be issued. Each level identifies those most impacted by extreme heat and identifies what responses and actions are needed. The following levels are identified:

· Heat Alert (Level 1): The most vulnerable may be affected. The main cause of illness and death at this level is the aggravation of pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

· High Heat Alert (Level 2): Everyone is at risk of heat stress and heat stroke at this level.

· Extreme Heat Alert (Level 3): Everyone is at high risk for heat-related illnesses and heat stroke. To prevent heat illnesses, it will be important to take immediate action to stay cool and drink plenty of cool fluids, especially water, before feeling thirsty.

In all cases the public will be advised through information releases and updates to the heat alert web site. Various organizations involved with community health will increase their activity to further protect vulnerable individuals, depending on the heat alert level. In an extreme heat alert, cooling centres may be opened.

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