Protecting our community from extreme heat – Public Health’s role

July 12, 2016

Whether you have a love or hate relationship with hot summer temperatures, at one point or another, you’ll likely be exposed to the sweltering summer heat.

This week is going to be a hot one, with a heat warning issued by Environment Canada for most of southern Ontario including the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region.
Thermometer showing hot temperature

So what is Public Health’s role in protecting our community from extreme heat?

In our role we receive heat warning information in advance from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Then, we relay the information to our community partners including the City of Guelph, Dufferin County and Wellington County so they can activate heat plans. In the City of Guelph for example, cooling centres are advertised within the public, and the information is used to inform emergency services of the potential for an increase in heat-related illnesses. Additionally, we notify daycares, retirement homes and long-term care providers of the hot and potentially dangerous conditions.

An important part of the process also includes sharing information with you (the public) and our community partners about ways to protect against high heat and the potential health impacts including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps.

Older adults, infants and young children are most at risk of heat-related illness, in addition to those living with chronic illnesses or who are physically impaired.
Construction workers outdoors People who work outdoors are also at an increased risk during hot humid temperatures and should take extra precautions when working outside.

How do you prepare for the heat ahead of time?

  • Tune in regularly to local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when to take extra care.
  • Plan to visit neighbours, friends and family, especially isolated seniors to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated.
  • Find ways to keep cool before the hot weather starts. If you have air conditioning, make sure your air conditioner is working properly ahead of the heat. If not, find an air-conditioned spot close by where you can cool off like a shopping mall, grocery store, movie theatre, public library or recreation centre.

During times of high heat and humidity:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of cold water or juice
  • Stay out of the sun
  • When at home, keep curtains and blinds closed during the day to keep the sun out
  • Schedule outdoor activities for early morning or evening hours
  • Spend as much time in the air conditioning as possible
  • Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle or in direct sunlight

How do you stay cool on hot and humid summer days?

Jenn Austin
Communications Specialist