Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Author: ASPR/OPP Division of Policy and Strategic Planning Published Date: 6/29/2017 11:27:00 AM
Category: National Health Security; Public Health Preparedness; Hospital Preparedness;
Summer is officially in full swing, and temperatures are sizzling in several parts of the country. While hurricanes, floods, and storms may be the types of severe weather most emergency planners and responders consider, extreme heat can be just as damaging, if not more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat kills more than 600 people every year in the United States, making it a top cause of weather-related deaths.
Whether as a rising average temperature or as heat waves, extreme heat is a health threat that can be more far reaching than any other severe weather events. Heat waves can strike in usually temperate geographical regions, placing residents at serious health risk unexpectedly. No matter where extreme heat arises, the risk is even more severe for children, the elderly, people who depend on electrical medical equipment at home, people without air conditioning in their homes, and people on certain medications or suffering from particular chronic illnesses.
The first step in addressing the risk of heat-related illness among vulnerable people is understanding where they live. The EPA’s EJSCREEN, the Environmental Justice Screening map helps emergency planners examine the environmental factors that impact different demographic groups. This free online tool lets users see where a wide range of vulnerable populations live in an area. Once a user identifies the geographic area of interest, EJSCREEN provides 30 demographic and environmental indicators and indexes for that area.
Yet to identify all the people at greater risk to extreme heat in your region, you’ll need additional tools. More than 2.4 million Medicare beneficiaries rely upon electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment, such as ventilators and wheel chairs. Heat waves can lead to rolling blackouts or brown-outs, creating significant adverse health effects for this group of people.
Hospitals, first responders, electric companies, and community members can use HHS’s interactive online emPOWER map to find the total of Medicare beneficiaries with electricity-dependent equipment claims at the U.S. state, territory, county, and zip code level. Using this tool, planners can help place shelters in key locations, allocate resources like generators, and identify top priority areas to reach during power outages.
In addition, check out the extreme heat sections of ASPR TRACIE’s Natural Disasters Topic Collection for lessons learned, plans, and templates that can help medical professionals, emergency planners, and public health professionals prepare for and cope with the weather and other natural hazards. The National Integrated Heat Health Information System webpage also offers a host of resources and tips for planning for and managing heat waves.
Making extreme heat a priority is critical for state and local preparedness planners, healthcare workers and emergency responders. Equipped with these resources, you can build resilience in your communities and beat the heat this season. For more information on national health security, visit www.phe.gov/nhss.
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