The interior region of B.C has always been known for its hot summer weather with climate models indicating that it will become even warmer, with more frequent and severe extreme heat events. The village of Ashcroft is the leading community in the region with 18 heat warnings being issued from 2013-2017. When understanding the impacts of exposure to extreme heat, the initiative considered both the direct impacts (e.g. heat related illness) as well as indirect impacts (e.g. indirect physical health, mental health and stress). Due to the rural nature of the Ashcroft community, there were several considerations taken when developing a heat response plan. Some of which include; i) assessing the community capacity to communicate risk and ensuring appropriate communication channels and strong community partnerships are established, ii) taking into account the different climate issues rural communities are faced with (e.g. wildfire and air quality hazards) to ensure that extreme heat isn’t left out and iii) considering the unique vulnerable groups such as outdoor workers (e.g. farmers, agricultural workers). A comprehensive breakdown of different vulnerable groups was also identified in the toolkit which includes 11 different groups which are;
1. older adults,
2. infants and young children,
3. pregnant women,
4. no access to air conditioning,
5. poor health status,
6. substance use disorders,
7. mental health disorders,
8. socially isolated individuals,
9. low income individuals,
10. outdoor physical activity, and
11. outdoor workers.
In 2018, Interior Health, one of five publicly-funded regional health authorities in British Columbia, partnered with the Village of Ashcroft to develop and implement a Heat Alert and Response Plan (HARS) to lessen the negative impacts of extreme heat with a focus on at-risk populations. The village of Ashcroft is a small rural village in the Thompson Country of the Interior of British Columbia. Historic temperature data indicates that it is one of the hottest municipalities within B.C. and often within all of Canada. Between the years 2013-17 it had the highest total number of heat warnings in comparison to 11 communities in the interior region. Extreme heat presents severe direct and indirect negative consequences to human health and with this risk being projected to increase under climate change, the village set out to lessen these impacts on the population. The Village of Ashcroft, as the lead agency responsible for initiating the plan, formed a Community Stakeholder Committee comprised of local and regional government partners, community members and First Nation Band Members. The resulting plan outlined protocols and actions for the three stages of heat alerts which are; i) Pre-heat Notifications, ii) Level 1 Heat Advisory and iii) Level 2 Heat Advisory.