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Cooling centres in Victoria, provincial alert system readying for extreme heat

With last summer’s fatal heat wave still fresh in mind, Victoria got a glimpse into how the city is planning to respond to sweltering conditions this summer.

Victoria councillors on Thursday were briefed on measures both the city and the province are set to take during heat events. The city’s emergency program coordinator, Tanya Patterson, said those kinds of hot spells are occurring with increased severity and frequency.

A provincial heat committee, made up of government health, environment and First Nation agencies, is creating a pilot B.C. Heat Alert and Response System (B.C.HARS). The two-tier standardized warning system will aim to protect those most vulnerable to extreme heat and inform people on how to protect themselves.

A tier one alert will be sent out when daytime temperatures are expected to reach 29 C or warmer and nighttime minimums will be at or above 16 C. Tier two – an extreme heat emergency – will be issued when tier one conditions are expected to last for three or more consecutive days.

In Victoria, the response will be activated when Environment Canada issues a heat warning and will start with communication about forecasted conditions and cooling resources through VictoriaReady, Vic-Alert and social media.

READ: Summer heat dome resulted in 18 Greater Victoria deaths: BC Coroners Service

Beyond air-conditioned places such as libraries, malls and community centres where the public can find refuge from the heat, city-run cooling centres will be activated. Those will be operated by the city’s auxiliary extreme weather response team and be funded by Emergency Management B.C.

City officials have contacted several facilities that could serve as cooling centre candidates. The criteria for those centres include air-conditioned and centralized locations that have washrooms, are pet friendly and have the capacity to meet the community’s needs. The locations of those will be communicated during heat events.

BC Housing will be providing cooling areas within their existing facilities for their clients. Cooling centres could also stay open overnight when needed for those who lack shelter.

Approximately 10 misting stations will be set up in strategically chosen locations – based on heat-island mapping, densified areas and fire department operations.

An extreme heat resource map will be circulated during heat alerts. It will identify the locations of water fountains, cooling centres, misting stations and any other resources that can help the public during scorching conditions. The city also has three portable water fountains that will be used.

READ: Nearly 600 people died due to summer heat waves: BC Coroners Service


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