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A New Tool to Track Heat-Related Illnesses

New ‘heat tracker’ gives insights on patient care, EMS response

August 10, 2023

Following a stretch of heat waves and broader climate trends, the federal government this week launched a new tool to track heat-related illnesses and response from emergency medical services (EMS) in the U.S.

The new mapping tool—called the Heat-Related Illness EMS Activation Surveillance Dashboard—is the first of its kind and aims to help support the response to heat waves, federal officials said.

“Heat is the most lethal of all types of extreme weather and heat exposure is worsening with increasing global warming,” said Dr. John Balbus, acting director of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. “But existing data on heat-related deaths don’t shed light on where people actually fall ill. This new dashboard makes it possible to see where the needs are greatest, plan for the future, and save lives.”

Here’s what you need to know about the new EMS HeatTracker:

  • What it does: The EMS Heat Tracker maps emergency medical services response to heat-related illness across the country.
  • What it measures:  The new tool includes state and county level data on the rate of heat-related EMS activations within a community; average EMS time in transit to reach a patient; and the percentage of patients who are transported to a medical facility for further treatment.
  • Pennsylvania highlights:  During the past 30 days, Pennsylvania had lower than average heat-related EMS activations, but higher than average EMS time in transit to reach a patient and percentage of patients who were transported to a medical facility for further treatment.
  • Overall goal:  The new mapping tool aims to ensure that outreach and medical aid reach the people who need it most, while helping decisionmakers prioritize community investments.
  • Quotable:  “Heat is no longer a silent killer. From coast-to-coast, communities are battling to keep people cool, safe, and alive due to the growing impacts of the climate crisis,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

The new mapping tool is available to review online.

For more information about responding to heat-related emergencies, contact HAP’s Emergency Management team.