The province is giving the District of Kitimat $60,000 to research and develop a response strategy to extreme temperatures caused by climate change.
The district’s Extreme Temperature Heat Mapping, Assessment and Response Plan, in partnership with the Haisla Nation, was proposed to council last June by Kitimat fire chief Trent Bossence. The plan is in response to the increased frequency of heatwaves and cold spells that can have detrimental effects on public health, infrastructure and the overall quality of life.
“There’s no question our climate is changing and our temperatures seem to be getting warmer, and the extreme temperatures are lasting longer,” Bossence said. “These temperatures can affect the vulnerable population, and that’s where we want to start, figure out what it takes to support that population as a community.”
The plan calls for detailed study of identifying exactly who is vulnerable to extreme temperatures, public education campaigns and new response protocols to help ensure efficient coordination and communication between agencies to expedite medical support, including the provision of cooling kits, regular wellness checks and transportation assistance.
Early warning systems, pre-equipped cooling centres and established partnerships with community organizations are also a part of the plan.
“We’re really fortunate to be working with the Haisla Nation on this — it’s kind of unique. It allows us to pool our data and our resources to establish some really good advance planning for extreme weather, whether it’s hot or cold extremes,” Bossence said.
In the long term, the district will explore options for more green infrastructure and urban planning through the incorporation of heat-resilient design principles, such as green spaces and energy-efficient building practices to mitigate the urban heat island effect.
With the project funding secured, Bossence said the district and Haisla Nation will begin the search for a consulting firm that appreciates the unique character and needs of the area, and are willing to work closely with local project leaders.
The funding, announced Aug. 16, is part of $430,000 being shared among 10 communities through the province’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF).
CEPF was established to help communities to improve their knowledge of the risks associated with extreme temperatures and how these risks will change over time. Recipients can use the funding to develop response plans and strategies to prepare, mitigate and adapt to those risks.
“Extreme weather caused by climate change puts vulnerable people at risk and we need to ensure that communities have plans in place to keep people safe,” Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness said.
Since it’s establishment in 2017, the fund has channelled $164 million into 1,600 projects in B.C.