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Richmond prepares for future heat waves

An estimated 10 people died in Richmond because of the 'heat dome' this past summer.
Heat wave

The Richmond fire department has a plan to tackle future heat waves.

This comes in the wake of a deadly heatwave that killed an estimated 10 people in Richmond and more than 500 across the province in early summer.

This plan is being dealt with by city council’s community safety committee next week, just after Human Rights Watch published a critical report about B.C.’s response to the unusually high temperatures in late June and early July during what was called a “heat dome” event.

At the end of June, the temperature in Richmond reached mid-30s while in Lytton it reached 49.6 degrees Celsius before that town was burned by a wildfire.

The Human Rights Watch report stated “inadequate government support” made the risk from the heat worse for people with disabilities and older people.

“People with disabilities and older people are at high risk of heat stress, but they were left to cope with dangerous heat on their own,” said Emino Cerimovic, senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a press release. “The Canadian authorities need to listen to and provide much better support for people with disabilities and older people before disaster strikes again.”

The report notes local governments operated cooling centres, but people Human Rights Watch interviewed in B.C. said accessing them wasn’t a “viable option” because it required going into the extreme heat to get to these centres.

The Richmond plan – “Hot weather and poor air quality plan” -  was written by the fire department and will be dealt with at the Oct. 13 community safety meeting.

It lists 12 facilities that could be used as cooling centres, including libraries and community centres, as well as a detailed plan of action in the case of another heat wave.

Facilities that could be used in future heat waves span from Hamilton Community Centre to Steveston Community and include the Minoru Centre for Active Living, which wasn’t open during the June heat wave.

A Level 1 heat wave is declared when the temperature in the Lower Mainland is expected to hit 29 degrees Celsius for two or more days, and a Level 2 heat wave is declared with expected temperatures of 31 degrees or higher.

If a Level 2 alert is issued, cooling centres will be open longer and the city, working with local agencies, will reach out to vulnerable people to distribute water.