Climate Action

Preparing for Extreme Heat

Record-breaking heat stifled western U.S. states and Canadian provinces - May 18, 2023. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin.

Record-breaking heat stifled western U.S. states and Canadian provinces – May 18, 2023. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin.


The Heat Dome of 2021 was the deadliest weather event in Canadian history, with at least 619 people dead as a consequence of the extreme heat. That’s why Georgia Strait Alliance is building community to support each other and prevent further harm, and sharing these resources to help in the case of another extreme heat event.

On this page:

Get informed about extreme heat | Get supplies | When you know the heat is coming | Extreme heat checklist | What to do during extreme heat | Community Resources

*Please note

We are not medical or health professionals, and this information is not medical or health advice. All content pertaining to health issues is provided for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, and treatment. Although we have worked to provide accurate general information, it is not a substitute for professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a medical or health professional for your particular needs and circumstances. If you are experiencing any extreme symptoms, seek medical help right away.


BC needs emergency action on extreme heat

Send a message asking Premier Eby and the BC government to take emergency action to save lives from extreme heat.


Preparing for extreme heat diagram

Get informed about extreme heat

Check the forecast
Know where to find out about coming heat waves and pay attention to emergency alerts.

Get a heat buddy
Having someone who you check in on and who checks on you is an important way to make it through extreme heat. Talk to a friend, neighbour or family member and set up a check in schedule for heat waves.

Know where you can go to cool down
If you don’t have air conditioning, know the places you go to cool your body down. Libraries, community centres, shopping malls, and shaded parks can all be places you can cool down.

Identify the coolest parts of your home
Know which parts of your home get hottest or stay cooler. Think about moving your bed to the coolest area of your home to make sleeping easier.

Medications and medical conditions
Some medications and medical conditions can make it harder for your body to cool down. Talk to your medical professional about risks.


Get supplies

Heat supplies can be expensive, so get what is reasonable for your budget. Some of the basics you may need include:

  • A thermometer to monitor indoor temperature. Indoor temperatures are often hotter than outside during heat events.
  • Blinds or curtains to keep the sun out of your apartment during the hottest days.
  • Gel cooling packs can be applied to your body to cool you down.
  • Small towels or rags that you can wet can keep your body cool.
  • Lightweight, loose-fitting clothes.

Some ideas about how to keep your space cooler include:

  • A fan to move cooler air. Fans alone will not keep your body cool in high temperatures, but spraying yourself with water and letting the fan dry you off can lower your body temperature.
  • Air conditioners can cool your space effectively, but are expensive. Some landlords don’t allow them or charge extra, so make sure to check before getting one.
  • Air quality can often get bad during heat waves. An air purifier can clean the air in your apartment, and an N95 respirator mask can filter out wildfire smoke pollution.

Other ideas:

Ice and frozen packs. Prepare some ice cubes or ice packs to use for cooling yourself. You can make separate bags using zip lock or small plastic bags, or even an empty egg carton lined with aluminum (to keep the water from soaking through) or a cupcake tray. Make some for eating/drinking and some to apply to your body.

Whose most at risk from extreme heat diagram


When you know the heat is coming

Talk to your heat buddy
Confirm contact information and addresses. Be clear on what your check-in schedule will be, and confirm the places you can meet if the heat is too much inside your apartment.

Prepare your cooling supplies
You want to do less during extreme heat, so prepare what you can ahead of time. Stock up your freezer with ice cubes and wet towels or rags inside zip locks.

Food and drinks
Do food prep ahead of time or at cooler times of day and stock up on food that doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Fill up water jugs.


EXTREME HEAT CHECKLIST

  1. I have informed myself about extreme heat
  2. I have asked a friend, family member, or neighbour to be my heat buddy
  3. I have researched and identified my cooling needs
  4. I have prepared my supplies, medication and other necessities
  5. I know where to go in case I need to cool off away from home

What to do during extreme heat

Stay in touch with your heat buddy
Keep in regular contact and make sure to check that both of you are ok. Ask for help if you need it, because heat can make it hard to think and do household tasks.


Monitor the temperature inside your home
If your apartment is uncomfortably hot or your thermometer is over 30 C, go someplace cooler if you can. Places with mechanical cooling, like cooling areas in community centers, will keep your body in a safe temperature range.


Stay hydrated
Drink water even if you’re not thirsty to keep your body cool. Avoid excess sugar and caffeine that can dehydrate you.


Cool your body
Apply cold packs or frozen towels to where your veins are closest to the skin: your wrists, neck, chest, or temples.


Keeps windows closed and covered
Keep the hot air out during the day. Open your windows late in the day to let in cooler night air.


Eat smaller meals with more water-rich foods
Regular smaller meals are easier to digest, and water-rich foods keep you hydrated. Large meals take more time to digest and increase your body’s temperature.


Keep your activity level lower than usual
Doing less keeps your body temperature lower. If you do have to be active, try to limit it to the morning and evening, and take rest breaks often.


Go to places that can help you cool down
If you don’t have air conditioning, know the places you go to cool your body down. Libraries, community centres, shopping malls, and shaded parks can all be places you can cool down.


Heatstroke first aid diagram


COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Parks and Cooling Centres
If your residence is over the dangerous mark of 30 degrees, seek out a green, shaded park or cooling centre. Dangerous temperatures can be lower if you are older, or have a disability or chronic illness. You can call your City Hall for inquiries about the available public resources in your area.

Neighbourhood Houses
Being prepared with an extreme heat preparedness kit (thermometers, spray bottles, etc.) is integral in a heat emergency. If you cannot access this equipment yourself, reach out to community service organizations like neighbourhood houses or local health clinics to help.

Community Health Centers
Urgent primary care centres are an important place to go for urgent, non-life threatening injuries or illnesses, including during a heat wave. Many of these also have information and workshops on how to prepare for and survive future heat waves and extreme heat emergencies.


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The map above shows the difference in air temperature between May 15, 2023—one of the hottest days in the heatwave—and the 2014-2022 mean for that date. The map is derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and depicts air temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. Dark red areas are where air temperatures reached more than 22°F (12°C) above the recent average. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin.

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