What the Hottest Month on Record Means for Emergency Preparedness
3 things to know about preparing for extreme temperatures, warming trends
August 15, 2023
It’s getting hot in here. If you grew up during a particular era, this line may evoke a feeling or memory in your head.
That early-2000s anthem arrived during a time when we were just starting to talk about global warming and its implications for the future. Well, the future is here, and global warming is not going away.
Did you know that July 2023 was documented as the hottest month on record? Not just the hottest July, but the hottest of any in a 12-month period. A recent report issued this month by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the global mean surface temperature was 16.95°C (62.5°F) during July 2023. The previous record set in July 2019 was 16.63°C (61.9°F).
So, what does this all mean for emergency managers? Situational awareness is key, and you should know that these temperature extremes are becoming more prominent.
We know that we must prepare for the heat, but this warming trend means your prep work should be even more of a focal point. We already see slight upticks in emergency department visits during heat waves, especially for patients with respiratory and cardiac problems. Poor air quality adds another layer to our weather-related preparations.
There are some other things to think about though as we prepare to face heat that we may have never seen before or for durations longer than we have ever experienced. Namely, we will be at a greater risk of power outages. Our electrical infrastructure is aging and may or may not be up to future demand. As we see temperatures increase, the demand for electricity use increases. As if that is not enough, we are seeing more and more electric vehicles on the market and in homes, thus creating even more power demand. Is your facility prepared with a backup plan for a power outage?
Increased global temperatures also mean an increase in tropical activity or strength. Granted tropical storms or hurricanes are rare in our region, but we still do see tropical activity. With higher temperatures, we will see higher ocean temperatures. Tropical systems thrive on warmer ocean temperatures, as it is the fuel for them. Bigger storms can lead to a host of weather-events that can affect your health care facility.
Pre-planning is critical at this point, so we have to think about future heat extremes and climate-related disasters on the horizon. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released the FEMA Response and Recovery Climate Change Planning Guidance, which is a good start to align preparedness efforts with future disasters.
For questions about this important work, contact me or HAP’s Emergency Management team for more information.