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Farnworth announces BC heat alert system, dodges questions on further policy changes

‘This is not the silver bullet,’ he says, one year after heat killed 595 in BC

By Martin Bauman
June 6, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Farnworth announces BC heat alert system, dodges questions on further policy changes

‘This is not the silver bullet,’ he says, one year after heat killed 595 in BC

By Martin Bauman
Jun 6, 2022
Mike Farnworth and Adrian Dix at the Monday conference. Photo: BC Government via Flickr.
Mike Farnworth and Adrian Dix at the Monday conference. Photo: BC Government via Flickr.
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Farnworth announces BC heat alert system, dodges questions on further policy changes

‘This is not the silver bullet,’ he says, one year after heat killed 595 in BC

By Martin Bauman
June 6, 2022
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Farnworth announces BC heat alert system, dodges questions on further policy changes
Mike Farnworth and Adrian Dix at the Monday conference. Photo: BC Government via Flickr.

BC’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth shared the details of a new alert system—and little else—during an announcement about the province’s response plans for extreme heat heading into another summer.

In a joint press conference with Health Minister Adrian Dix, Farnworth touted the province’s new BC Heat Alert and Response System (BC HARS)—designed to broadcast alerts in advance of heat events, similar to tsunami warnings, wildfire warnings, or Amber Alerts—as one step "to ensure [we’re] prepared for more of these events in the future."

The BC Coroners Service tallied 48 heat-related deaths on the Island, including 18 in Victoria, during last summer’s weeklong heat dome that claimed 526 lives across the province between June 25 and July 1.

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Province noncommittal on further policy changes

The province also announced a new stream under its $189M community emergency preparedness fund for communities to undertake heat risk mapping and future planning.

But details were slim to nonexistent on any other commitments the BC government would make in response to proposed solutions from policy experts—from growing calls to expand personal access to air conditioners in emergencies (even classifying them as medical devices) to implementing better safeguards for people with mobility issues, or who lack a social network with people to check in on them.

Much of the announcement centred on personal responsibility, with Farnworth encouraging BC residents to "prepare themselves and their families" for extreme heat, and to "watch closely for signs of heat illness."

Several times throughout the 30-minute question period, Farnworth was asked about further protections or policy changes the province might have taken, from mandating air conditioning units in apartment buildings to better protecting people living with schizophrenia, for whom the June 2021 heat dome was found to be four times as fatal as the provincial average.

Farnworth did not answer those questions directly, instead referring back to the "unprecedented" nature of last summer’s heat dome and touting the province's work on implementing its new alert system.

"We had never seen anything like that in this province. And one of the important things is obviously to learn the lessons from that," he said.

"This is still very much a tool for the toolbox; this is not the silver bullet by itself."

Paramedic response changes

Last summer’s heat dome led to an overhaul of the province’s ambulance response services, following weeks of questions about the health system’s slow response.

"Our ambulance paramedics responded to and helped more people than in any other days in the history of the ambulance service," Dix told reporters on Monday.

He added that since then, the province has added 125 full-time paramedic positions in urban areas, 42 dispatcher positions, and 22 new ambulances; however, Capital Daily has not learned how many of those roles are on the Island, nor how many have been filled yet.

Victoria’s heat response to include cooling stations, misting stations

Last summer’s heat dome has prompted a shift in planning efforts for the City of Victoria, which is preparing for a mock emergency planning scenario for staff tomorrow.

Victoria has three cooling stations identified for the summer, with the Save on Foods Memorial Arena, the Cook Street Village Activity Centre, and the Vic West Community Centre earmarked for emergency use, according to Tanya Patterson, the city’s emergency program coordinator.

Patterson says the city has also been working to ensure that its planning efforts will account for its most vulnerable residents, who might not have access to air conditioning; meanwhile, the city has been collaborating with BC Transit for transportation to and from cooling centres.

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Martin Bauman
Newsletter Editor
contact@capitaldaily.ca

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