Many health units and municipalities across Canada have recently implemented, or are in the process of implementing, some form of heat alert protocol. The basic premise of such strategies is to make citizens aware of the dangers posed by extreme heat events and the means by which they can better protect themselves and loved ones from such dangers. These protocols are often complemented by local response plans to provide cooling shelters and other forms of support. However, one of the more difficult aspects of this work is the task of effectively disseminating this information. In particular, disseminating this information to the people who most need to be aware of it because they are among the most vulnerable. Such groups include the elderly, the homeless, and those struggling with addiction or chronic illnesses, among others. Members of these groups are more likely than the general public to lack access to tradition means of government communication, making reaching them a difficult task. Due to the effects of climate change, the issue of heat waves will only become more pressing as time goes on.
Beginning in 2005, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) adopted an Extreme Temperature Alert Protocol and utilized the extensive networks of partnering organizations to maximize the reach of the protocol. The Extreme Temperature Alert Protocol is a system of alert citizens of the potential dangers posed by extended periods of high heat and informing of the various ways to keep safe during such an event. It is often the case that members of the most vulnerable groups, including the elderly, the homeless, those struggling with addiction and chronic illnesses are also the citizen who are the most difficult to reach by the usual means of communication for a local or regional government. By proactively seeking partnerships with organizations that have a greater degree of penetration into such groups, for example the Salvation Army, the MLHU has effectively expanded the reach and efficacy of its communication network. This has resulted in a greater degree of community resilience to extreme heat events throughout the area.