Understand what communities can do in advance of a heat wave to protect citizens and infrastructure from the effects of heat.
Communities have an important role to play in protecting their residents from heat illnesses. Vulnerable populations may have difficulty affording air conditioning or have jobs that are physically demanding or require them to work outside. To prepare for and mitigate the effects of extreme heat, communities should take preventative steps to reduce heat-related illnesses and deaths.
Community response programs
Set up outreach programs
Set up outreach programs to check on seniors and other neighbors who may be at high risk. The greatest risk factors for heat-related deaths are bed confinement due to medical illness, living alone, being socially isolated, and not having access to air conditioning. Identify local support networks and develop communication plans to check on the welfare of family members and vulnerable neighbors during a heat wave.
Train home health professionals
The elderly population segment is the most vulnerable to the dangers of heat. In addition to the elderly, infants, young children, and people with chronic health problems (especially pre-existing heart disease) or disabilities are more vulnerable to the effects of heat waves.
Train home health aides who are taking care of the elderly and vulnerable on how to deal with heat-related illnesses as these residents are most susceptible. Proper training educates aides on heat and how to recognize and address early signs of heat-related illness.
Invest in long-term strategies
Urban and suburban areas can be "heat islands," that is, a zone 2-10 degrees warmer than the surrounding area. Because they are warmer, heat islands use more energy to cool them, driving up costs and affecting air quality. Communities can invest in long-term strategies such as:
Replace heat-absorbent asphalt with cool pavements.
Impervious, black surfaces like asphalt and tarmac trap and amplify heat. Light-colored concrete or artificial turf traps less heat. Using paving materials on sidewalks, parking lots, and streets that stay cooler than traditional paving not only cools these surfaces and surrounding air but can also reduce stormwater runoff and improve nighttime visibility.
Fund green and cool roof initiatives on commercial buildings.
Similar to asphalt roads, black tarred roofs absorb heat and exacerbate its effects. Painting roofs white can help reflect the heat of sunlight, and green roofs with gardens or plants can even help reduce heat. Greening a roof with plants, shrubs, grasses, and/or trees lowers the temperature of the roof surface, and surrounding air and improves stormwater management. Green roofs, also known as "roof gardens" or "eco-roofs," provide shade and remove heat from the air through evapotranspiration.
Green roofs in Dallas, Texas (source)
Provide shade and vegetation
Provide shade and greenery in outdoor areas and remove paved surfaces. Trees and green infrastructure such as parks and gardens help reduce ambient heat. Greater tree and vegetation cover lowers surface and air temperatures by providing shade and cooling through evapotranspiration. This increases comfort for those who spend time outdoors and limits heat buildup during the day.