Tuesday , 30 May 2023
Home News More staff, resources need to tackle extreme heat events

More staff, resources need to tackle extreme heat events

Photos from ACORN presentation

Opening cooling centres and providing free access to swimming as a way of dealing with heat emergencies may not cut it anymore in Hamilton. Hamilton’s Board of Health has unanimously approved a motion by Ward Two Councillor Cameron Kroetsch that would direct staff to explore the cost of subsidizing air conditioning for tenants. The motion would also see four and a half new staff hired to develop and enforce new “adequate temperature” by-laws aimed at protecting tenants from extreme heat. The items would go through the 2024 budget process for approval.

The motion, which did not appear on the circulated agenda was presented at the end of a Board of Health meeting called specifically to address extreme heat issues arising out of the climate emergency that was declared by Council in its last term. The motion appeared to have staff input, given the specificity of the staffing request.

More than 14 groups and individuals representing tenant and environmental groups appeared as delegates. The Hamilton tenant Rights organization Acorn presented a report that said at most risk for heat-related illnesses are people with disabilities, older people and low-income, Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities that have little or no access to air conditioning and are more likely to live in areas with fewer parks and shaded outdoor areas. Acorn pointed out that there is tenant protection legislation to ensure minimum temperatures for tenants in winter, but nothing to protect against extreme heat.

The discussion became wide-ranging at times, with requests for staff to provide data on subjects like the economic impacts of extreme heat and whether there was more violence reported during heat waves. Councillors wanted better data on exactly how many heat related deaths and illnesses occurred-staff pointing out that it is sometimes difficult to determine if a heart attack was heat related or due to other factors.

Staff presented an overview of current heat-related actions. A Heat Warning is issued when there are two or more consecutive days forecasted with daytime highs greater than or equal to 31°C and nighttime lows greater than or equal to 20°C or a Humidex of 40°C or greater. When that happens the following actions are taken:

  • Scheduled public, family, adult and senior swims will be free of charge, at indoor and outdoor pools
  • Participating City and community partners offer community spaces such as libraries and rec centres as ‘cooling places’; 
  • Recreation Programs will remain operational but modify program to a more passive nature;  
  • Mobile water distribution by the Salvation Army in downtown core.

An Extended Heat Warning is issued when there are three or more consecutive days observed with daytime highs greater than or equal to 31°C and nighttime lows greater than or equal to 20°C or a Humidex of 40°C or greater; When this happens, in addition to the cooling centres and access to swimming,  there will be enhanced monitoring of hospitals and other health providers to determine health impacts.

The staff report acknowledged that existing heat plans need updating and to be reviewed annually given the increase in heat related events.

in 2022, according to Environment Canada, Hamilton recorded 6 days with temperatures at or above 30 degrees and 6 days with the humidex above 40.

%s Comment

  • Their is a unit in my apartment that allows me to control the air conditioning. It’s not bad but it adds to my electricity bill. To save money and energy I leave it off when I’m not home. I do the same with the heat with the same unit in the winter. In fact I only have it on when I’m sleeping. I also have a small fan that costs far less to run. The point being that building management companies will apply for higher rents to offset the cost of installing new systems and the tenants will have to be ready for higher utility bills.

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