Bracing for Heat
The long, hot days of summer come with outdoor activities and much needed vacation for many Americans. Public health officials, however, remain on high alert during the warm days: they are increasingly aware of the increased exposure to extreme heat that accompanies summertime activities and the threats faced by residents of buildings without air conditioning. They're also mindful of the need for extra protection of vulnerable populations during heat waves.
Building resilience to extreme heat for the range of rural, urban, economically disadvantaged, and wealthy communities across an entire state presents a formidable challenge. While Minnesota is a state that is more commonly known for its frigid winters than its warm summers, it has occasionally experienced summer heat waves that linger for several days. In response, cities and towns across the state have taken strides to meet the challenge of protecting their residents when heat waves occur.
A customizable community toolkit
Building on lessons learned over several summers, Kristin Raab—Health Impact Assessment and Climate Change Program Director in the Environmental Health Division of Minnesota’s Department of Health—packaged information from diverse communities into a cohesive toolkit that communities of all sizes can use to prepare for heat waves. The Minnesota Extreme Heat Toolkit describes changing weather conditions in Minnesota, the magnitude of potential health consequences from extreme heat, and key steps communities can take to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths. The toolkit acknowledges that extreme heat response plans will vary with the size of the community and the habits of its residents: examples from the mostly rural Olmsted County and the urban centers of Saint Paul and Minneapolis illustrate a range of community plans that could be useful in Minnesota and beyond.