Our summers are becoming increasingly hot and dry. Learn how to stay safe and be prepared for hot weather.
Extreme heat can put your health at risk, causing illness such as heat stroke or even death. Take steps to protect yourself and those around you.
To warn the public ahead of a potential heat event, Environment and Climate Change Canada will deploy:
- a special weather statement days in advance to allows for planning
- a heat warning when the temperature threshold is reached
- an extreme heat emergency alert when forecasts indicate increasing severity of heat
A heat warning is when daytime and overnight temperatures are higher than usual, but are not getting hotter every day. The threshold is set by Environment Canada and is specific for the Fraser region.
A warning will be issued when conditions reach daytime temperatures of 33°C (91.4°F) and a nighttime low of 17 °C (62.6°F) followed by a forecast of 33°C (91.4°F) for the following daytime temperature. If there is a heat warning, you should take steps to stay cool.
Extreme Heat Emergency
An extreme heat emergency is when daytime and overnight temperatures increase above the warning threshold for 3 consecutive days or more.
Make sure you have access to cooler spaces and take steps to ensure you limit physical activity in the heat. Check on older or vulnerable people that you know to make sure they are adequately prepared for the potentially dangerous temperatures.
Heat-related illness is the result of your body gaining heat faster than it can cool itself down. In most cases, heat-related illnesses are preventable.
Who is at risk?
While everyone is at risk of heat-related illness, hot temperatures can be especially dangerous for:
- infants and children
- people 65 years of age or older
- those working or exercising in the heat
- persons with chronic heart and lung conditions
- people living alone
- people experiencing homelessness
If you are taking medication, particularly for mental illness, ask your doctor or pharmacist if the hot temperatures increases your health risk and follow their recommendations.
Seniors are most at-risk for heat-related illnesses. People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to high temperatures.
See more information on summer heat safety for seniors and people with medical conditions.
Children and Pets
Parked cars are not safe for pets or humans. Do not leave children or animals inside of a vehicle on a warm day. Opening a window is not sufficient cooling from the heat.
Cool off in pools and water parks.
Signs of Heat-related Illness
- Signs: Muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs.
- Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
- Signs: Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting.
- Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath.
- Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
- Signs: Extremely high body temperature (above 103°C) indicated by an oral thermometer; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweat; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; and unconsciousness.
- Actions: Call 9-1-1 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
See a printable poster outlining the signs of heat-related illness and what action you can take.
What You Can Do
Mitigating risks of extreme heat events requires an all-of-society approach. Individuals, property owners and managers, business owners, and governments all have a role to play to protect the community.
- Drink lots of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
- If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask about increasing the amount of water you can drink while the weather is hot.
- Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to 52°C (125°F) within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 34°C (93°F). Leaving the car windows slightly open or "cracked" will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
- Seek out an air-conditioned facility (shopping centre, library, community centre or restaurant).
- Use public splash pools, water parks or pools or take a cool bath or shower.
- At extremely high temperatures, fans alone are not effective. Applying cool water mist or wet towels is a quick way to cool off.
- Wear loose, light-weight clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- At home: open windows, close shades, use an air conditioner (if you have one) and prepare meals that do not require an oven.
- Avoid sunburn: stay in the shade and use sunscreen with SPF 15 or more.
Check-in on others
- People living alone are at high risk of severe heat-related illness. Check regularly on older people, and those who are unable to leave their homes, for signs of heat-related illness.
- Ask whether people know how to prevent heat-related illness and are doing the same.
- If others are unwell, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated and call for medical assistance if appropriate.
Property owners and managers of rental and strata housing
People who live in buildings without air conditioning are often most at risk because heat can accumulate indoors day after day during extreme heat events. When temperatures reach 31°C or higher, it can be especially dangerous. It may also be difficult for people to find other cool places to stay.
Barriers to staying cool
You may have concerns about residents installing air conditioning or other cooling measures, sometimes due to aesthetics, safety, or concerns about power usage and building capacity. Some housing in strata buildings are subject to bylaws that prohibit the installation of air conditioners and/or awnings or window coverings that can block out the worst of the summer heat. Some rental housing contracts also prohibit the use of air conditioning and certain window coverings.
Health Authority Recommendations
You can make lifesaving decisions.
In advance of the heat season, the health authorities are asking owners and managers of rental and/or strata housing to consider reducing any barriers, operationally or otherwise that would prevent residents from keeping cool. If these barriers exist in rental contracts, they are asking you to remove the barriers and advertise to tenants of this change. The request is for those who own a strata unit to investigate if there are any strata bylaws that prohibit cooling measures and encourage the strata council to change them.
If a Heat Warning or Extreme Heat Emergency is called, Health Authorities and Environment Climate Change Canada will inform the media; weather warnings are also available through apps such as WeatherCan. As the cost of cooling measures may be prohibitive for some residents, it is also recommended that multi-unit buildings open a cool, air-conditioned common room, where possible, during such heat events. Cool green outdoor spaces could also be used or identified as places where people can seek refuge. Ahead of such events, it may be advantageous to investigate bulk buying programs for cooling units and/or window coverings.
Sharing information with residents about checking on potentially isolated neighbours and how to stay healthy during the heat would help keep all our neighbours safe. Information on how to conduct check-ins is available through regional health authorities.
For more information to share with your residents and partners, please see:
- Sun and Heat Safety - Fraser Health
- Summer Heat and Health: recommended actions for owners and managers of rental and/or strata housing - Fraser Health
- Climate change and health - Vancouver Coastal Health
- Tune in regularly to local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when heat risk is higher.
- Apps like WeatherCan may be helpful to get alerts when weather warnings are issued.
- Sign up for Surrey’s emergency notification system called Alertable. The City can issue alerts and provide updates during extreme weather events.
- Post cooling advice and how to care for others (available on the Fraser Health website)
During an extreme heat emergency, consider opening your doors as a cooling space for community members if you can.
- Provide water if you are able
- Train staff to recognize the signs of heat illness.
- If you have air conditioning, advertise if people are welcome to stay longer than usual. It can take a long time for people to cool off once they are overheated.
- Alter your pet policy to let people bring pets to your cool spot (people worry about leaving their pets in hot homes). Fraser Health can provide guidance.
- If you do not think all people will feel welcome, or there are limits on how many people can be in your space, know where there are community cooling spaces to which you can direct people.
Protect your staff
- See WorkSafeBC resources for more comprehensive guidance.
- Know the signs of heat illness and educate staff to be alert if staff or others are feeling ill.
- If feasible, keep your business cool, somewhere between 22 - 26 °C, which can provide your staff with needed relief. If it is 31°C or higher inside, it is dangerously hot for people vulnerable to heat related illness.
- Where possible, allow a change in work hours so staff who might be exposed to the heat can do their work during the coolest hours of the day.
- Increase breaks an encourage staff to drink plenty of water.
What the City of Surrey Does
The City of Surrey provides:
- Heat relief in City facilities such as recreation centres and libraries.
- Heat relief to the public in outdoor shaded spaces and spray parks.
- Access to water for people and pets at outdoor fountains.
- Drinking water in public facilities.
The City also:
- Monitors heat events through updates provided by the province.
- Sends out communication amplifying Health Authority messaging on various channels to educate the public on how they can reduce their risks. This can include the city webpage, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, digital billboards, newsletters, and any other opportunity to provide further reach into the community.
- Sends out emergency alerts to those signed up on the Surrey notification system called Alertable. This system can alert citizens and provide instruction to mitigate risks through their preferred device such as a landline or cell phone. In this way, there is a greater likelihood of reaching people isolated in their homes at greater risk in a heat event.
- Has staff trained to monitor and check on people vulnerable to heat when available.
- Conducts community outreach with staff and volunteers focusing on high-risk populations.
- Heat Resources - Fraser Health
- Extreme Heat - Vancouver Coastal Health
- Beat the Heat - HealthLink BC
- Extreme Heat Events - Government of Canada
- Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke - BC Housing
- Alertable - Opt in for local emergency notifications
- Be Prepared for Heat Wallet Card - Fraser Health
- Infographic: Staying Healthy in the Heat - Government of Canada
Planning / Guidance
- Extreme Heat Guide - Prepared BC
- BC Heat Alert and Response System - EMBC
- Heat Check-in Framework - Fraser Health / Vancouver Coastal health
Health Checks During Extreme Heat Events - National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health
Surrey's Extreme Heat Response Guideline - City of Surrey
For Community Care Facilities
- Long-term Care Facilities and Heat - Fraser Health
- Child Care Facilities and Heat - Fraser Health
- Extreme Heat and People Experiencing Homelessness - Fraser Health
- Extreme Heat Preparation for Housing and Shelter Service Providers - BC Centre for Disease Control
- Extreme Heat Preparation for Health and Service Providers - BC Centre for Disease Control
- Prepare an Extreme Heat Kit - BC Centre for Disease Control