Preparing for Extreme Heat

Extreme heat can put your health at risk, causing illnesses such as heat stroke or even death. Protecting yourself, your family and other potentially vulnerable people in your life is essential. 

There are two types of heat level alerts in BC.

Alert  Threat  Action 
Heat
 Warning 
Daytime and overnight temperatures are higher than seasonal norms and holding steady.  Take usual steps to stay cool. 
Extreme Heat Emergency  Daytime and overnight temperatures are higher than seasonal norms and getting hotter every day.  Activate your heat emergency plan. 

Make sure you have an emergency plan and an emergency kit for everyone in your family. Be prepared by stocking up on extra fuel and food, and during an event stay tuned to radio and televisions stations for weather updates.

Island Health, supported by Environment and Climate Change Canada, will distribute alerts when heat events are a moderate or high risk to the public's health. Alerts typically happen three to four days before the hottest temperatures are expected to take place.

Extreme Heat and Climate Change

Due to climate change, the capital region is experiencing hotter summer temperatures. In the coming decades, we can expect to experience more extreme heat days and heatwaves. We can minimize the impacts of climate change by reducing our carbon pollution and preparing our homes and communities for climate impacts that include extreme heat. Read More >>  

Before

Know Your Risk 

The following people are especially at risk if they do not have access to air conditioning and they need to be prepared and supported:

  • seniors aged 65 years or older
  • people who live alone
  • people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory disease
  • people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety
  • people with substance use disorders
  • people who are marginally housed
  • people who work in hot environments
  • people who are pregnant
  • infants and young children
  • people with limited mobility
  • people without a fan or air conditioning

Make A Plan  

Evaluate your home's cool zones

  • Specific areas in your home may stay cooler than others. During an Extreme Heat Emergency, stay in the coolest part of the residence and focus on keeping that one location cool. Start by identifying a room that's typically the coolest and consider how you can modify the layout to support sleeping and day-to-day living for the duration of the heat event.

Evaluate if you can stay home

  • If it is not safe for you to stay at home, consider staying with friends or family that have air conditioning or cooler spaces. Alternatively, find places in your community you can visit.

Identify an Extreme Heat Buddy

  • If you live alone, find an extreme heat buddy to check in on you when it gets hot, and you can also reach out for help. Your buddy should be someone who can take you to cooling centres or help with cooling measures in your residence.

Prepare your home

Making changes to your home ahead of time can help keep your home cooler

  • Install a heat pump. Heat pumps work in reverse in the summer to provide cooling or air conditioning, while also reducing your household carbon pollution. Rebates and support are available. Read more >> 
  • Install a window air conditioner
  • Install interior window coverings and/or exterior covers or reflective films that block the sun
  • Have fans ready to move hot air out and cooler air in when temperatures drop at night

As the temperature rises

If an Extreme Heat Emergency alert has been issued, it's time to put your plan into action.

  • Relocate to a cooler spot if you have planned to do so
  • Reconfigure the coolest location in your home so you can sleep there at night
  • Check in with your pre-identified heat buddy. If you don't have one, try to reach out to someone you trust as soon as possible
  • Put up external window covers to block the sun if you can safely do so
  • Close your curtains and blinds
  • Ensure digital thermometers have batteries
  • Make ice and prepare jugs of cool water
  • Keep doors and windows closed between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to trap more cool air inside. Open them at 8 p.m. to allow cooler air in, and use fans (including kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans) to move cooler air through the house.

During

Staying Cool Inside

In homes without air conditioning, heat builds indoors over a few days. It may stay hotter inside than outside overnight. Without air conditioning, the longer the heat lasts, the more dangerous it becomes. Take the following steps to keep yourself and members of your household safe:

  • If you have air conditioning, turn it on. It does not need to be going full strength to help you stay safe
  • If you have air conditioning and vulnerable friends and family do not, bring them to your home
  • If you do not have air conditioning, move to your pre-identified alternate location with air conditioning or cooler spaces
  • Sleep in the coolest part of the residence. Outdoor temperatures are usually lower than indoor temperatures overnight, so consider sleeping outside if you can safely do so
  • Sleep with a wet sheet or in a wet shirt
  • Take cool baths or showers to draw heat from your body
  • Drink plenty of water, regardless of whether you feel thirsty. Be aware that sugary or alcoholic drinks cause dehydration
  • If you are taking medication or have a health condition, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it increases your health risk in the heat and follow their recommendation
  • If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot

Staying Cool Outside

Lower your activity level and avoid strenuous activity. If you must do errands or plan to exercise, do so early or late in the day when it is generally cooler.

  • Never leave children or pets in a parked car
  • Avoid direct sun by staying in the shade and wearing a hat and protective clothing
  • Use sunscreen and UV-protective eyewear
  • Seek cooler, breezier areas when outdoors, such as large parks near trees and water
  • If you work in a hot environment, discuss and act on ways to decrease heat exposure with your employer and coworkers

Keeping Pets Safe

"Our pets often depend on us to make those choices for them."

Pets are part of the family too. Make sure they have plenty of water and are with you in cool locations. When outside, stay in shady areas and avoid asphalt and pavement. Those surfaces can burn paws.

  • Pavement: If you regularly jog or bike with your dog, be conscious of when you're doing it. The pavement can get very hot for your pet's feet on a hot day.
  • Exercising: Choose to exercise with your dog earlier in the morning or later in the evening when it's cooler, reducing the chances of your pet getting heatstroke.
  • Outdoor excursions: When hiking, camping, or going to the beach, ensure you bring along a water bowl and water for your pet and an umbrella for shade. Use a towel to dry off your pet and give them a place to lie down that's not scorching hot.
  • Cool Down: Freeze favourite food or treats, such as Kongs or ice cubes with chicken broth, or try freezing a variety of toys and treats inside one big ice cube. Invest in a kiddie pool for your pup and fill it with cool water for your furry friend to enjoy and play in.
  • Is your pet ok? Ensure your pet is having a good time outside in the heat and can get out of the sun in a nice shaded area.
  • Pets in cars: If you go out in the car, leave your pet at home rather than in a hot vehicle, where it can take as little as 10 minutes for a pet to suffer irreparable brain damage or even death.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

Conduct a heat informed wellness check for signs and symptoms of heat illness.

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid breathing or heart rate
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark urine and decreased urination

*If you experience any of these symptoms during extreme heat, move to a cool place at once and drink water.

Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature
  • Confusion and lack of coordination
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • No sweating but very hot red skin

Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. While waiting for help, cool the person right away by:

  • Moving them to a cool place, if you can
  • Applying cold water to large areas of the skin
  • Fanning the person as much as possible

Drought

All residents and visitors are encouraged to follow our tips for using water wisely to help reduce the impact of dry, hot summers on community water supplies. Read more >>