The City of Fredericton, New Brunswick, historically experienced a higher number of hot days than elsewhere in the Maritimes. Climate projections indicated that the number of hot days in Fredericton were expected to double by 2050, coupled with an increase in warmer nights. This made extreme heat as a public health risk an emerging issue for Fredericton that was largely unaddressed. As part of the development of the Heat Alert and Response System, Fredericton partnered with Health Canada and the New Brunswick Department of Health to assess vulnerabilities in the local community. Health Canada led a temperature-mortality analysis for the City, which revealed that when the daily maximum temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius, there was a sharp spike in mortality. The study made it clear that without further adaptation, heat-related health risks in Fredericton would continue to increase with a changing climate. Before the Heat Alert and Response System pilot project, the City of Fredericton would rely on a press release from New Brunswick Health, derived from Environment Canada weather warnings, to inform the public of an extreme heat event. This system not only lacked clarity, but it failed to engage the local community and introduce adaptive measures that were desperately needed in the wake of increasing temperatures posing more frequent and severe heat-health risks for the population of Fredericton. Health Canada and New Brunswick Health’s climate projections and initial analysis of the issue identified the need and laid the foundation for the development of a Heat Alert and Response System in Fredericton.
Beginning in 2009, Health Canada (HC) partnered with the New Brunswick Department of Health and the City of Fredericton to pilot a multi-year initiative to develop a community-based Heat Alert and Response system. Fredericton, a city in New Brunswick that was identified to be vulnerable to the risks of increasing temperatures due to climate change was among four Canadian municipalities selected to create an alert system for residents. HC conducted a temperature-mortality analysis for the City of Fredericton, which found a sharp increase in mortality when temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. Climate projections indicated that the number of hot days in Fredericton would double by the mid-century, making it evident that adaptive measures were needed. The New Brunswick Department of Health quickly moved to create The Heat Alert and Response System Advisory Committee (HARSAC) that would work with various stakeholders and organizations to identify best practices to communicate and share information at the onset of an extreme heat event. In constructing a Heat Alert and Response System through stakeholder engagement, the committee took on a two-fold approach. The approach centered on capitalizing on the extensive networking capacities of the committee’s members and building on existing alert and response structures to reduce the challenges associated with making a new system. Based on input from key stakeholders, the alert triggers were modified from using a series of adjectives to a plain-language tier of ‘Heat Alert’, ‘High Heat Alert’, and ‘Extreme Heat Alert’. To support the roll-out of Fredericton’s Heat Alert and Response System, two bilingual websites were launched that informed the public of heat-health risks. Other public engagement methods included the distribution of materials to at-risk populations and one-on-one training for individuals about heat-health risks. The HARS program in Fredericton was able to capitalize on the robust and well-established Fredericton Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) for the municipality. Through this group the City was able to determine which stakeholders would benefit the most from being involved in the HARSAC as well as which organizations should be targeted for the educational materials. The involvement of several stakeholders in the planning process and the leverage of already established networks of community-based organizations drove the success of the program which is still in place over a decade later.