Heatwaves are deadly disasters that are increasingly common and can seriously
affect human health and well-being. When a heatwave strikes, the most
vulnerable are the most impacted. In the past decade severe heatwaves have
been responsible for numerous fatalities, including over 400 deaths in The
Netherlands in 2019, over 1,500 deaths in India in 2015, 4,870 deaths in Paris,
France in 2003, and over 10,000 deaths in Russia in 2010. These are likely
underestimates because there is no systematic way to count deaths from
heatwaves. It is therefore increasingly important for the Red Cross Red Crescent
to be aware of the dangers that heatwaves can pose, to understand the
vulnerability of specific groups and to take practical action to save human lives.
Even if you live in a country where it is hot most of the year, where heat has not
been an issue in the past, it may be an issue now due to increasing temperatures
from climate change. Urgent, timely action at scale during a heatwave can
drastically reduce deaths due to extreme heat. Actions are also simple, low-cost
and well within the mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent.
This guide is based on the comprehensive Heatwave Guide for Cities1
but it is tailored towards practical actions that can be led by Red Cross Red Crescent
branches in preparing for, and responding to, heatwaves in towns and cities.
While aspects of these actions may be new, most recommended actions can be
easily integrated into existing branch activities.
While heatwaves can affect both rural and urban areas, this guide is tailored
towards actions in urban areas. Temperatures in towns and cities tend
to be hotter than the surrounding rural areas due to the many surfaces – such as
densely packed buildings, roads and pavements – that absorb heat and release
it slowly. This effect makes towns and cities hotter for longer. A branch located
in a rural area may choose to modify some of the actions to be better suited
for this area.
Publication date: 18/06/2020
Document status: Final