A successful response to Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke (EHWS) events depends on a strong response plan, developed before the event occurs. In some years, heat waves begin as early as May.
A response plan will look different for different organizations, depending on their size, building configuration, staffing levels, location, and other factors.
An EHWS response plan may include the following components:
- Staff Training
- Internal Notification Process
- Tenant/Client Vulnerability Assessment and Wellness Check Plan
- On-site Cooling Options
- Equipment and Supplies Inventory
- Informing Tenants and Site Staff of Risks
- Activities Checklists
Site staff who have direct contact with tenants/clients should understand the health impacts of extreme heat You may need to provide training in staff meetings or distribute information by other methods.
Internal Notification Process
Consider setting up an internal notification process for EHWS events. The process should notify all relevant staff, from directors to managers to site staff. Activate the process when Environment and Climate Change Canada publishes a Special Weather Statement or Alert related to EHWS.
- Public Weather Alerts for British Columbia
- Air Quality Health Index - View Air Quality Health Index readings for your area.
- BC Heat Impacts Prediction System - An interactive map that supports health protection during hot weather.
Tenant/Client Vulnerability Assessment and Wellness Check Plan
While everyone is at risk during EHWS events, identify tenants/clients with specific risk factors. Doing so will help prioritize wellness checks and additional support. BC Housing has created a wellness check-in card for tenants/clients that can be used as part of a wellness check plan.
- Wellness Check-In Card - Leave check-in card at the door when conducting wellness checks
On-site Cooling Options
If your site does not have in-suite air conditioning, set up on-site cooling rooms or outdoor cooling spaces. Cooling rooms and spaces provide protection from heat-related illness and improve comfort. Air conditioners and air purifiers can be used in these spaces to create a place of refuge.
If you do not have an appropriate space, notify tenants/clients about cooling spaces in the area. To locate cooling centres, check the websites and social media of your local governments or call them. Libraries, indoor shopping malls, community centres, and cinemas may have air conditioning and act as cooling centres. Parks or other shaded green space are usually cooler than other outdoor areas.
- How to Cool a Space
- Find a cooling centre near you
- Space Cooling Strategies - Strategies for cooling individual suites, common areas, and entire buildings
Equipment and Supplies Inventory
Create an inventory of portable air conditioners, fans, and other supplies before the summer to ensure they are available when needed. Ensure equipment is in good working order.
- Air Conditioner Sizing Worksheet - Size short-term portable air conditioners for single rooms up to 2,500ft2
- Air Purifier Sizing Worksheet - Size short-term portable air purifiers for common rooms
- Housing Partner Contact Form - Request equipment to respond to EHWS events
- Cool Kit How-To Guide - Sheet with practical tips and tools to help keep cool
Informing Tenants and Site Staff of Risks
Housing providers should ensure proactive and effective communication with tenants/clients and building staff about:
- the risks of extreme heat and poor air quality
- the signs and symptoms of related illnesses
- how to stay safe
Identify the most effective ways to share information with tenants/clients and have a plan in place.
- Planning and Communicating with Tenants
- Tips to Beat the Heat Poster - For display in common areas of your building
A checklist may help you complete necessary steps during either an extreme heat event or during ‘typical’ summer temperatures.
Once an extreme heat warning has been lifted, take time to evaluate what went well and what could be improved for future events.
It is best to do this soon after the event, while the experience is easy to remember.
- Consider a tenant/client survey, if appropriate.
- Areas to review include:
- Resources and supplies
- Communication flow
- Roles and responsibilities
- Health outcomes for tenants/clients