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B.C. prepares for heat wave, thanks people for taking steps to help…

The Province is reaffirming to British Columbians that the health authorities, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) remain geared up and ready to help people through another heat wave.

Temperatures are again expected to rise in the next 24 to 48 hours, lasting until Sunday, Aug. 15.

In this extraordinary heat, British Columbians should continue to take steps to keep cool and stay safe from smoke. Many parts of the province will continue to experience poor air quality from wildfires.

Those who are unable to move to cooling centres (the elderly, people who live alone or have impaired mobility) are at greatest risk. Check with friends and family who may need assistance in managing a heat wave.

“I’ve seen how British Columbians have been reaching out to take care of each other through the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s heat waves and wildfire emergencies across the province,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “As we look toward another few days of extreme heat, we’re kicking our response into high gear again. We’re encouraging British Columbians to keep helping each other out like they have been and ensuring that emergency services will be there for anyone who needs them.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said: “Following all health guidelines during a period of rising temperatures is crucially important for vulnerable populations, like older adults, people with chronic health conditions, infants and young children. We can be extra vigilant for those people who are most at risk by reaching out to remind them of the actions that will help us all get through another heat wave safely, such as limiting physical activity outdoors, taking shelter in a cool, air-conditioned place and staying hydrated.”

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said: “The Province is working closely with local governments and First Nations to provide support to people and communities in getting through this heat wave. We’re reminding people to follow local weather advisories, make a plan to check on friends and neighbours, and get to know local resources, like the locations of nearby cooling stations where you can seek shelter from the heat if needed.”

As a reminder of the work undertaken to keep people and communities protected from the heat and smoke, the Province, health authorities and local governments have ensured that:

  • BCEHS staff are redeployed where needed to assist people in need during this heat wave. Managers have stepped up to work at hospital ERs to assist with offload delays and keep paramedics on the road.
  • BCEHS staff will be prepared for the hotter weather with support from the chief ambulance officer, as well as paramedic and dispatch leaders.
  • BCEHS provincial and regional emergency operations centres will remain active.
  • Further BCEHS supports include increased clinical support in dispatch centres 24/7 for supporting 911 calls and increased support from managers for front-line operations.
  • EMBC is continuing to work with local communities and First Nations and has made supports available to them, including reimbursements for:
    • opening cooling centres. To locate a cooling centre, residents are urged to check the websites or social media of their local government, regional district or area First Nations;
    • 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.
  • HealthLink BC is planning/staffing for increased call volumes through the weekend.
  • Health authorities are working to keep people cool and are continuing to co-ordinate proactive services for more vulnerable people who may be at risk during the heat wave, including sharing tips for staying cool and advice for vulnerable community members when communicating heat warnings within their regions.
  • Patients within the Interior Health region, who are being proactively relocated due to wildfire alerts, are receiving the same operational supports built into Interior Health’s heat safety protocols.
  • First Nations Health Authority is continuing to offer heat response supports for First Nations communities and individuals affected by heat and wildfire smoke.

To stay safe through another heat wave, people should continue to drink plenty of water, limit physical activity outdoors, stay indoors in an air-conditioned place and check in with loved ones, especially those most at risk. High indoor temperatures can be particularly dangerous for older adults and those with chronic health conditions, especially if they live alone. Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower or use wet towels or a cool water mist to cool down. If a person has mild heat exhaustion, they should move to a cooler environment, apply wet towels or take a cool bath or shower, drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids and rest. If urgent medical support is needed, call 911 without delay.

British Columbians are encouraged to remain attentive to their needs and the needs of their loved ones. Make sure that older family members, neighbours and friends are alright. Reach out to those who are unable to leave their homes and people with emotional or mental-health challenges whose judgment may be impaired. Look out for the warning signs of heat-related illness and adjust your behaviours to reduce the risk of exposure. To ask about heat-related illness, call HealthLink BC (811), follow health advice and call for emergency help if needed.

People throughout B.C. may also be at risk of smoke-related illness through exposure to smoke caused by ongoing wildfires.

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.

Written and released by BC Government

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