Historical climate records indicate that Oxford County, Ontario, is one of the hottest regions Canada, having experienced some of the highest recorded temperatures and humidex values in the country. Furthermore, climate predictions indicate that this region see a doubling of days over 30°C by the middle of the century. These heat hazards are only exacerbated by a number of issues that are distinct to Oxford as a largely rural area. With an older population, many people working in high-risk occupations relying on manual labour conducted outdoors, poor access to transit and other public services, and a constant struggle to find enough resources for existing medical support facilities, Oxford County is at a higher risk to the threats of extreme heat than other regions of Canada.
Oxford County, a largely rural area in Southwestern Ontario, undertook a series of consultations and workshops to address the particular issues that it faces in an extreme heat event. While Oxford is by no means alone in working to prepare for the growing threat of extreme heat events, its status as a rural county contributes several unique challenges. Not only are rural regions more likely to have an older population than urban areas, but there is also likely a greater proportion of people working in physically strenuous outdoors occupations (e.g. farmers, foresters, fishers, and other labourers doing outdoor work). Additionally, such areas also struggle with limited resources and expertise, proximity and access to health services, a smaller number of community support organizations and facilities, limited media for communicating in real time with local populations during an event and, finally, a greater likelihood of people being isolated or without public transportation compared with those living in urban settings. To further complicate matters, Oxford county is among the warmest regions in Canada and, due to climate change, is expected to experience a doubling of days over 30°C by mid-century. These consultation and workshop exercises have proven effective in increasing the efficacy of the Heat Alert and Response System for the region.