More intense and frequent heatwaves are already occurring in many parts of the
world. Their frequency and intensity are expected to rise globally due to climate
change. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the global temperature record have
occurred since 2001. However, deaths from heatwaves are not inevitable and, in
fact, they can be greatly reduced through the implementation of relatively simple
and cost-effective actions. In August 2003, over 18,000 heat-related deaths
occurred in France as temperatures of more than 40°C were recorded in the worst
heatwave seen in decades. Temperatures at night did not cool down as they
typically do, and people living in France did not have electric fans or air
conditioning to cope with the persistent heat. Older people living alone were the
most affected. Older people are physiologically less able to regulate body heat and
may not have family or friends nearby to help them make the necessary
adaptations to high temperatures. Nationally, there was no heatwave plan in
place, while many doctors were on holiday, so hospitals were short-staffed.
Following the 2003 catastrophe, France has created a heatwave plan that
includes an alert system, public information campaigns and check-ins with older
residents, amongst other actions. In subsequent heatwave events, studies have
found that fewer people have died in France indicating that vulnerability to heat
has been reduced since 2003. For example, a study found that during a 2006
heatwave approximately 4,400 fewer deaths occurred than would be expected;
this is linked to increased awareness of heat risks, the setting up of an early
warning system and the implementation of preventative measures.

This example shows that cities can rise to the challenge of coping with more
frequent and extreme heatwaves. Cities have a unique potential to adapt to
changing heat risks through effective risk management at multiple levels within
a city; connecting policies and incentives; and strengthening community
adaptation capacity. All of these facets make it extremely important for cities to
undertake heat-related risk analyses and to devise plans for reducing and
managing risks. This guide is intended to be a basic introduction to this topic and
a resource for cities to start planning for extreme heat.

Download: Heatwave Guide for Cities

Publication date: 16/07/2019

Document status: Final

Heatwave Guide for Cities

Document data

National Societies
Climate Change, Climate change, Disaster management, Disaster risk reduction, Health, Heat wave, Resilience
Document type