Residents asked to check neighbours, help seniors cope as mercury soars again
by: Kevin Griffin, The Province
The province has moved into "high gear" in anticipation of another heat wave in Metro Vancouver and other areas of southern B.C., Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday, implementing several measures that include covering the cost of staff and water at neighbourhood cooling centres.
Officials are also calling on the public to check in with neighbours, family members and friends who are living alone to make sure they are keeping cool and hydrated.
"The province is geared up and ready to help people through another heat wave, along with our partners in the health authorities and local governments," Dix said. "Services in health authorities are fully prepared to help anyone who might experience heator smoke-related challenges."
Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island from Thursday to Sunday. During an online news conference, Dix outlined a number of practical measures that have been implemented, such as increasing staff at hospital emergencies to meet expected demand.
"If you or a loved one experience heat-related illness and you need help, please call 911. The B.C. Ambulance Service remains ready to serve you," he said. "Paramedics and dispatchers are on deck to get help quickly to people who call for it."
From Thursday to Sunday, staff with HealthLink B.C. at 8-1-1 call centres have been told to expect higher than normal call volumes.
"We have all hands on deck to get British Columbians through the heat," Dix said.
"I've seen how British Columbians have been reaching out to support one another in the heat, reminding their neighbours and loved ones to stay safe by keeping cool. Thank you for everything you're doing, every one of you."
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said temperatures are not expected to reach the same highs as during the last recent heat wave in late June and early July. During that time, the B.C. Coroners Service said 569 people died of heat-related causes. About 80 per cent of those were 65 and older.
"Many people here are not acclimatized to this type of temperature, particularly when it does not cool down at night," Henry said.
She said extremely high indoor temperatures can be particularly dangerous for the elderly and anyone with a chronic health condition. If they are living alone, she said, they may not recognize the effects of extreme heat on their bodies.
She pointed out that at high temperatures, fans alone can be dehydrating. Their effectiveness can be increased by using a mister, putting an ice tray in front of the fan, or applying moisture to your body with a wet towel.
"Right now, the important thing for the next few days is to find ways to stay cool both indoors and outdoors," she said, adding that it is important to drink water before you feel thirsty.
In Burnaby, Doris Mah said the Caring Project started when she contacted Burnaby Neighbourhood House and the Seniors Services Society in July to ask them what they needed to help seniors with the heat.
"They said, 'Fans, number one.'" Mah was able to get more than 50 donated fans to help seniors in need, but more are still needed.
"If people have functioning fans they're not using, please donate them," she said.
Fans can be dropped off at the offices of NDP MP Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby) and NDP MLA Anne Kang (Burnaby-Deer Lake). People outside of Burnaby, Mah said, can take their own initiative to help seniors in their community.
"They can pick up the phone, call their local seniors'organizations, and ask what they need," she said.
"If they say fans, put it out on social media and gather fans and bring them to the organizations." [email protected]
Photo: Jason Payne / New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian, left, and Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Anne Kang bring a fan to Andy Majta in Burnaby on Wednesday, as part of the Caring Project to help B.C. seniors cope with the sweltering temperatures.;
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