Understanding and Assessing Impacts
In 2011, Health Canada published a Best Practices Guidebook on Heat Alert and Response Systems, which included a chart of heat projections for specific Canadian cities. Subsequently, Manitoba Health, Seniors, and Active Living (MHSAL) decided to develop a province-wide plan to develop local Heat Alert and Response Systems for both urban areas and rural/remote communities in Manitoba. The Town of Melita was one of two regional health authorities that partnered with MHSAL’s Office of Disaster Management to conduct vulnerability assessments, whose findings would inform the development of Heat Alert and Response Systems. Identifying vulnerable populations was a demanding task for the Town of Melita, since rural communities often lack the data monitor relationships between temperature, mortality, and morbidity. The Town formed a Heat Alert Response Advisory Committee (HARSAC) with the assistance of the local regional health authority (the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority). With the support of Health Canada, Melita conducted a vulnerability assessment in parallel with a table-top exercise that simulated an extreme heat event. These two activities helped the Town identify specific risks related to extreme heat faced by the small rural community. The Town also used the assessment to learn about characteristics of vulnerable groups and existing capacities and limitations within the community. A major limitation particular to rural communities is that they often lack the larger public buildings that urban cities can use as cooling facilities. Instead, Melita was forced to rely on the support of social networks to communicate about and identify and access cooling alternatives. Understanding the importance of improving adaptive capacity to extreme heat events in the face of increasing temperatures, Assiniboine Regional Health Authority and the Town of Melita used information from the assessments to begin development and implementation of a local Heat Alert and Response System for the community.