The Province is taking action and mobilizing health authorities, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) and the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) to assist this weekend as temperatures are expected to rise in the next 24 to 48 hours.
British Columbians are asked to take personal precautions with the heat until Saturday, July 31, as many parts of the province are also experiencing poor air quality from wildfires.
“Emergency Management BC continues to work with local governments and First Nations to support communities during this second heat wave,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We encourage British Columbians to keep apprised of the weather situation in their area and seek out local information, including locations of cooling stations and plans to get there if needed.”
Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, said: “As we have experienced before, extreme heat is dangerous to our vulnerable populations, including seniors. That’s why we have all hands on deck, including asking all British Columbians to help out their family members, neighbours and others during this extraordinary time. We are making sure all health services – including health authorities, BCEHS and EMBC – are ‘all systems go’ to help out anyone who is experiencing heat and/or smoke-related challenges.”
Dr. Sarah Henderson, scientific director in environmental health services, BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), said: “Now more than ever, it is crucial to be aware of the rising temperatures and follow all health guidelines provided to keep yourself, and your loved ones cool. This includes taking extra care to check in with people most at risk, especially those who have chronic health conditions or older adults who live alone. It also includes drinking lots of water, limiting physical activity outdoors, being cautious if you work outdoors, finding a cool air-conditioned place and keeping hydrated, taking cool showers or baths, protecting infants and young children from the heat and taking extra care to check in with people most at risk, including infants, young children and older people.”
During heat alerts, the Province works together with health authorities and local governments to take action to protect people and communities. Actions immediately underway include:
- EMBC is working with local communities and First Nations and made supports available to them, including reimbursements for:
- opening cooling centres. To locate a cooling centre, residents are urged to check their local governments, regional district or area First Nations websites or social media;
- transportation to and from cooling centres in communities where no scheduled public or reasonable transportation exists;
- staff wages and overtime to open a civic facility that would otherwise not be open; and
- water for distribution within the facility.
- BCEHS staff have been redeployed where needed to assist people in need during this heat wave. The chief ambulance officer is working with paramedic and dispatch leaders to ensure staff are prepared for the hotter weather.
- Supports include increased clinical support in dispatch centres 24/7 for supporting 911 calls; and
- an increased number of managers support for front-line operations.
- BCEHS is activating provincial and regional emergency operations centres, and deploying managers to assist in reducing offload delays, and keep paramedics on the road and hydrated.
- HealthLink BC is planning/staffing for increased call volumes throughout the weekend.
- Health authorities are co-ordinating proactive services for more vulnerable people who may be at risk during the heat wave, including ensuing heat warnings are sent out with tips for staying cool, and advice to help vulnerable community members.
- First Nations Health Authority continues to offer heat response supports for First Nations' communities and individuals affected by heat and wildfire smoke.
It is important to take all the precautions to prevent heat-related illness, and to support and check in with neighbours, friends and family over the coming days. If a person has mild heat exhaustion, they should move to a cooler environment, take a cool shower or bath, cover themselves with wet towels, drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids and rest.
The Province is asking British Columbians to make sure they have a plan to also ensure the safety of loved ones. Check in on elderly family, neighbours and loved ones to make sure they are okay. Check on those who are unable to leave their homes and people with emotional or mental-health challenges whose judgment may be impaired. People should be vigilant, watch for warnings signs of heat-related illness, and take steps to stay safe during extreme heat. To ask about heat-related illness, call HealthLink BC, follow health advice and call for emergency help if needed.
Exposure to wildfire smoke is also a challenge facing many people in B.C. right now, and forecasts are showing that smoke may become more widespread throughout the province over the weekend. Smoky air can irritate a person’s respiratory system and cause an immune response, leading to inflammation that affects other parts of their body. Common symptoms include eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat and mild cough. Some people, especially those who have asthma or heart conditions, can have more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness or chest pain. People should seek prompt medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms.
People are encouraged to reduce their exposure and seek cleaner air by using a portable HEPA air filter in homes, visit public spaces such as community centres or libraries that will have cleaner, cooler indoor air, and take it easy on smoky days. The harder a person breathes, the more smoke they inhale. As with hot weather, drinking plenty of cool water can help reduce inflammation and help a person cope with heat and smoke.
Elevated heat also increases the risk of wildfire, and British Columbians are being urged to do their part to prevent human-caused wildfires and help keep communities safe. To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 (toll-free) or *5555 on a cellphone.
For tips on how to stay safe during a heat wave, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021HLTH0136-001486
Environment Canada Public Weather Alerts for B.C.: https://weather.gc.ca/warnings/index_e.html?prov=bc
HealthLinkBC online resources about beating the heat: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/beat-the-heat
And heat-related illness: www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/heat-related-illness
And heat stroke symptoms: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/sig245455
For more on protection from wildfire smoke: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/prevention-public-health/wildfire-smoke
Warm weather safety in a time of COVID-19: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2020/warm-weather-safety-in-a-time-of-covid-19
Preparing for dangerous heat with BCCDC: http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2021/preparing-for-dangerous-heat
To ask about heat-related illness, call HealthLinkBC at 811.
BC Wildfire Service: www.bcwildfire.ca
Fire restrictions and bans: https://www.gov.bc.ca/wildfirebans
FireSmart program: www.firesmartbc.ca