The calendar says summer is winding down, but millions of Americans have still found themselves under excessive heat warnings in recent weeks.
The threat that severe heat poses to many government workers and those in the communities they serve is very real. Just this summer, extreme temperatures were believed to have played a part in the death of a United States Postal Service carrier who collapsed on his route in a Dallas-area neighborhood gripped by a stifling heat wave.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have developed resources the agencies hope will increase readiness throughout communities experiencing extreme temperatures.
On the heels of hosting an Aug. 28 virtual roundtable on planning for extreme weather, DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have issued guidance designed to aid state, local, tribal and territorial leaders in preparing their populations for extreme temperature events.
The roundtable and resource guide, which DHS says is the first of its kind, are the newest components of FEMA’s #SummerReady campaign, launched to help mitigate weather-related risks “by reaching communities affected by rising temperatures and boosting awareness of the impacts of extreme heat, highlighting straightforward steps individuals and families can take to prepare,” according to a FEMA statement announcing the new resource guide’s availability.
“Communities across the nation are dealing with the consequences of extreme heat events. That’s why FEMA has been leaning forward to help communities get the information they need to build resilience against extreme heat through our #SummerReady initiative,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, in the aforementioned statement. “We will continue to engage our local, state, tribal and territorial partners to help them prepare for the deadliest climate threat we face—extreme heat.”
Putting Plans in Place
In addition to pointing government leaders toward relevant resources such as heat.gov and FEMA’s National Risk Index, the four-page document outlines a four-step plan of action for preparing communities to “improve community resilience, save energy and reduce utility bills, save post-disaster costs and save lives” in the event of extreme temperatures.
The guide urges community and government leaders to start by making an extreme temperature response plan that includes designating an officer to lead the response to extreme temperature events. For example, Miami-Dade County in Florida was the first local government to appoint a chief heat officer to coordinate a whole government response to extreme heat, with other cities such as Phoenix and Los Angeles having since followed suit.
The plan should position resources for effective and timely deployment, identify the most vulnerable residents and neighborhoods for targeted outreach, designate cooling or heating centers and notify residents of extreme temperatures and actions they can take. Baltimore, for instance, issues a “Code Red” when a heat advisory goes into effect, alerting residents by text and email, urging them to take precautions.
Secondly, the guide suggests conducting a threat and hazard identification and risk assessment, with complementary actions including establishing a clear heat index or temperature threshold for a heat or cold advisory, mapping “heat islands” and incorporating extreme temperatures into hazard mitigation plans.
DHS and FEMA also urge planning for and adapting to future conditions.
“Climate change makes the average temperature warmer. But it also makes extreme temperatures and other weather events more likely,” the guidance reads. “Infrastructure built today will likely be in place five decades from now. State, local, territorial and tribal leaders should consider how that infrastructure will fare in today’s climate and that of a warmer, and more extreme, future.”
Finally, the agencies “strongly encourage” adopting and enforcing natural hazard-resistant building codes to protect communities against extreme temperatures, recommending the latest natural hazard-resistant codes, specifications and standards in the construction of new buildings and the repair of alteration of existing buildings. The FEMA Building Codes Adoption Playbook For Authorities Having Jurisdiction provides general information on the importance of building codes, general steps to adopt and enforce them, information on FEMA grants and references to additional resources.
“As extreme heat, worsened by the climate crisis, threatens the lives, safety and security of communities everywhere, the Biden-Harris Administration is working across all levels of government to ensure communities have resources to protect the public and our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, in a statement.
“There are sensible, constructive measures that communities can take to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat. By sharing information, planning ahead with concrete steps, understanding available federal resources and working together to help the most vulnerable people in their communities, Americans can prepare, adapt and respond to these weather-related threats to the health, safety and security of our communities.”
08 September 2023
HR News Article