Health

Heat Alert 'Trigger' Too High

By Tom Cooper
Published July 17, 2008

Toronto has issued an extreme heat alert - that city's highest warning level to inform and protect vulnerable residents from the dangers of extreme heat. The high humidex is supposed to last until the weekend.

It is actually one degree hotter in Hamilton today than in Toronto. Temperatures according to environment Canada are supposed to reach 31° C on Thursday and 32° C on Friday in Hamilton, and 30° C on Thursday and 30° C on Friday in Toronto.

As of yesterday afternoon, Hamilton Public Health had no intention of issuing a heat advisory - the first part of the three part trigger system.

A heat advisory simply initiates a public information response sent to media outlets to inform people to be cautious about the dangers of extreme heat. It doesn't cost the City anything apart from the staff expense of dialing a fax number.

According to forecasts, Hamilton's humidex will reach 39. A heat advisory is issued at one day with a humidex of 40 or more.

Vulnerable populations at risk during periods of extreme heat include seniors, persons with disabilities, those who are taking medications affected by high heat, and individuals living in precarious housing with inadequate cooling.

Despite some very concrete recommendations coming from a recent report from the City's extreme heat response committee, many of those actions will not go into effect because Hamilton's trigger level is set too high.

Lynn Aquin, local advocate and member of the Community Heat Response Committee, recently asked Board of Health to lower the trigger threshold for issuing the heat advisory system. Staff are to report back to Board of Health.

Tom Cooper is the Director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:08:32

a humidex of 40?? do they think this is Miami??
Barring a crazy bout of heat, a week like this is as hot as it gets around here. It's downright sweltering. To not issue a heat alert with consecutive days over 30 and humidex values close to 40 is plain stupid and unsafe.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:38:53

According to all the pages I look at the humidex will reach 37 max. That's by accuweather, environment canada, weather underground and the weather network. Still hot is hot. There is a smog advisory out tho.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:39:48

I think part of the problem is that the weather stations aren't located near the people. Our main station is at the airport which is in open fields and doesn't reflect what happens down the mountain very well.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 17, 2008 at 12:52:23

or on the mountain. the lack of trees and never-ending ashpalt on the mountain can make it unbearable on hot, sunny days.

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By lynnaquin (registered) | Posted July 18, 2008 at 00:29:46

The mountain temperature posted by the weather underground is consistently 3 degrees cooler than the downtown and I believe Environment Canada averages those two and one in the Dundas area to arrive at the posted humidex level. The 40 humidex trigger was determined using young, male, American soldiers and Environment Canada states that "it did not meet the needs of urban populations." So why are we still using it? Since a Hamilton Public Health community health status report states that "71.8% of Hamiltonians over the age of 12 report having a chronic health condition", we should be using a much lower trigger than healthy, fit, young men.

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By wonderland (anonymous) | Posted July 18, 2008 at 15:42:34

You should be sending these comments to Gillian Hendry and Public Health. Why is Hamilton always so far behind the rest of the world?

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By w willy (registered) | Posted July 21, 2008 at 09:47:38

Because the councillors, and the people who vote for them, have A/C in their homes, cars, stores and offices set at Arctic temperatures. "Heat advisory? why, I had to wear a sweater at work today!"

Because setting a level where it would actually be triggered would eventually mean having to come up with some policies (such as cooling centres, keeping pools open) that would cost money, and we cannot pay for that or else we won't have the cash to run sewers out to the airport.

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