Summer has yet to “officially” begin, yet British Columbia has already been experiencing some unusually hot weather. Extreme heat events can affect our health–sometimes seriously—but there are many things neighbours can do to have fun together while reducing risks and helping protect each other. That’s why Building Resilient Neighbourhoods (BRN), in collaboration with Hey Neighbour Collective, has published a new, free guide called Prepare Together for Extreme Heat (PDF).
“In any kind of crisis or emergency, neighbours are always the true ‘first responders,’ because they’re the closest people to each other,” says BRN executive director Stacy Barter. “So with this new guide, we’re hoping to inspire people to connect and prepare together for extreme heat events.”
Prepare Together for Extreme Heat (PDF) is ideally for use by groups of neighbours in multi-unit housing or in the same block; however, it can also be used by any person or group wanting to learn more and consider ways to better protect themselves and help others before or during extreme heat events.
The guide includes discussions about the risks of extreme heat events, and the potential life-saving impacts of social connections. For example, only 14% of British Columbians live alone, but the BC Coroners Service’s study of the 2021 heat dome reported that 56% of those who died lived alone. That’s part of the reason that the most frequent advice we hear is “check in on your neighbours” during heat events!
But if you don’t know your neighbours, how do you reach out? Once you’ve met, how do you set up a check-in system? And what else can neighbours do to help each other before and during extreme heat events? These are the questions Prepare Together for Extreme Heat [link] helps explore and answer in simple, easy steps!
The guide suggests ways to reach out to gather others for discussions, and gives practical tips on facilitating activities such as
- organizing learning sessions
- helping each other do cheap and easy home-cooling retrofits
- setting up neighbour-to-neighbour communication and check-in systems
- finding or creating shared cooling zones in neighbourhood or building common areas
Prepare Together for Extreme Heat also includes links to up-to-date BC-specific resources explaining what the main health risk factors are during extreme heat, creative ways to quickly cool yourself, and where to access key information in different languages. These resources include many great tips–for example, Fraser Health’s Fans in Extreme Heat FAQ describes how fans, if used incorrectly, can actually make you hotter. Health Canada has issued a helpful list of common medications that affect metabolism and significantly increase risk during heat events.
We’re thrilled that a part of Prepare Together for Extreme Heat has already been adapted by the City of New Westminster for wide distribution to its residents.
“We found the dedication and care that was put into the materials to be helpful for individuals trying to be neighbourly,” says Cory Hansen, the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “We hope that it will give residents greater awareness of what they can do to be better prepared. We also want residents to understand the importance of knowing their neighbours and building connections so they can reach out for assistance or help others during an emergency.”
Prepare Together for Extreme Heat is designed for use by anyone as a stand-alone tool, but it’s also part of BRN’s Connect & Prepare—a program that brings neighbours together to create social connections, increase preparedness for acute emergencies and chronic stresses, and strengthen shared resilience. This is BRN’s first draft of the Prepare Together for Extreme Heat guide – Will you consider reading it through on your own, or testing it with a small group of friends or neighbours, and then share your feedback?
Thank you, and stay cool!