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Marine, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

New State Heat Resilience Toolkit Offers Solutions to Reduce Heat-Related Health Problems

Local governments and partners are encouraged to prepare for extreme heat.

The N.C. Office of Recovery Resiliency (NCORR) today announced the launch of a new Heat Action Plan Toolkit that aims to reduce heat-related health impacts to North Carolina residents and workers. The toolkit launch coincides with Earth Day, a global event focused on environmental protection, which is critical to reducing climate impacts such as extreme heat.

“With the frequency and severity of extreme weather increasing, it’s more important than ever to build local resilience that will help protect people and save lives,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “The new toolkit provides valuable resources that will help local governments prepare for and respond to these potentially life-threatening events. The project also underscores how state partnerships are critical to finding climate solutions that benefit all North Carolinians.” 

Designed for use by local governments, health departments and other community partners, the toolkit includes an easy-to-use heat action plan template and outreach resources to help communities prepare for and become more resilient to extreme heat. Also included are recommended actions for healthcare staff and local leaders when extreme heat is forecasted and steps for identifying high-risk groups in a community. 

“Everyone in North Carolina cares about someone who is vulnerable to heat illness, from an elderly family member to a neighbor who works in an outdoor industry,” said Chief Resilience Officer Dr. Amanda Martin. “The Heat Action Plan Toolkit provides concrete steps for healthcare providers, local government and community leaders to care for these loved ones along with all North Carolinians in times of high heat.” 

In addition to NCORR, the North Carolina State Climate Office, North Carolina Division of Public Health and Duke University Heat Policy Innovation Hub partnered on development of the toolkit. 

“Last year, there were over 3,900 emergency department visits for heat-related illness in North Carolina. As our summers get hotter and the nights stay warm, preparing for extreme heat at the local level is critical to protecting the health of North Carolina residents and workers,” said Branch Head of DHHS Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Dr. Virginia Guidry.

Understanding that every local community can benefit from having a heat action plan and resources for extreme heat, project partners presented an April 17 webinar that introduced the concept of heat risks and included participation from state, academic and county-level experts. The webinar, “Navigating North Carolina’s Rising Temperatures: Understanding and Addressing the Health Risks of Heat,” explored the state’s increasing extreme temperatures and how to prepare for and prevent heat-related illnesses. The webinar also provided examples of how some communities are already preparing and how the state is helping in those efforts. The webinar and toolkit can be used by public health departments, emergency management local governments and academic researchers. Both are available on the NCORR website.

“The data show that our already hot Carolina summers are getting hotter. This is especially true for nighttime temperatures. The toolkit collaboration with NCORR and DHHS has allowed us to take the data a step further to offer resources and solutions for local and county governments, which means we can keep more North Carolinians safe and thriving in a changing climate,” said Dr. Kathie Dello, director of the State Climate Office at N.C. State University.

“North Carolina is a leader in creating a county-level heat action plan toolkit that is grounded in evidence, informed by community engagement and customizable for diverse geographic and social contexts,” said Dr. Ashley Ward, director of the Heat Policy Innovation Hub at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. “Providing concrete guidance to counties on how to plan, prepare, and respond to extreme heat is critical to protect our communities, particularly those most vulnerable. I hope other states will follow North Carolina’s lead.”

In addition to the toolkit partners, project contributors included North Carolina Emergency Management, National Weather Service and the Chatham County Public Health Department. 

The toolkit was funded through HUD Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation awards to North Carolina and NOAA’s Climate Adaptation Partnership. 

This press release was originally published by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.