It’s getting hot, hot, hot and the City of Kelowna is taking action.
Approximately 60 people died in B.C.’s Interior as a result of the 2021, heat dome and today, the City of Kelowna and Interior Health hosted a joint press conference to announce a new heat mitigation strategy to keep residents safe.
A ‘heat warning’ will be announced when the forecast calls for two consecutive days of 35 C, with temperatures not dipping below 18C overnight, explained Lance Kayfish, the risk manager for the City of Kelowna.
During a heat warning, public transit will be free for people travelling to access cooling centres and misting areas around the city. During a heat warning are encouraged to spend time in air conditioned areas, like theatres, shopping centres, the library and recreation centres or in cool-down spots like misting stations which will be set up at the Queensway bus loop, and water parks.
Additionally, outreach teams will be dispatched to assist Kelowna’s unsheltered population and to distribute sunscreen, hats and water.
When asked about the decision not to set up a cool-down misting station at the city-maintained encampment on the Rail Trail, Kayfish said that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness should travel to the cool down areas.
In instanced where blazing temperatures persist, residents with a phone will receive a phone notification, similar to an amber alert, to signal a ‘heat emergency.’
When the emergency alert is enacted, public transit will be free for people travelling to cool down and additional cooling centres will be opened at the Okanagan Regional Library, the Capital News Centre, Parkinson’s Recreation Centre and the YMCA.
During a heat emergency, outreach workers will deliver water, hats and additional transportation to cooling centres for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
The City of Kelowna cooling strategy is in line with the heat preparedness guidelines outlined by province and Interior Health.
Dr. Silvina Mema, Interior Health’s deputy chief medical health officer spoke at the press conference about the health risks of extreme heat, those at increased risk of heat-related illness.
Mema said that elderly people and those experiencing mental illness and substance use disorders are disproportionately impacted by the extreme heat. She said that the majority of the people who died in the 2021 heat dome were living indoors, but did not have access to air conditioning.
It is important to check in on loved ones without air conditioning during a heat wave, as indoor temperatures above 26C can be dangerous for vulnerable people. During an extreme heat event, temperatures indoors can build over days, becoming dangerous. Mema also said that vulnerable people should not be exposed to temperatures greater than 31C for prolonged periods of time.
For more information on extreme heat and how to be prepared visit emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca.