Using heat refuges in heatwave emergencies

    In Australia, heatwaves are more deadly than any other natural hazard and predicted to increase in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. Heatwaves are directly connected to human health through heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Vulnerable people, particularly those without effective cooling in their homes, are at high risk of illness or death during heatwaves. Heat refuges-typically air-conditioned or cooled buildings that have been designated as a site to provide respite and safety during extreme heat-are commonly used in the Northern Hemisphere for vulnerable people during heatwaves but are less prevalent in Australia. In Australia, heat refuges tend to be managed by local councils as part of local planned climate adaptation measures. This article discusses the development of a heat refuge strategy in Blacktown City Local Government Area in western Sydney. Blacktown City has higher summer average temperatures than coastal Sydney, caused by its local geography and urban heat island effects that limit the inflow of cooler coastal winds. The draft Blacktown City heat refuge strategy is based on some of the key components of disaster risk reduction including risk assessment, early warning systems, emergency management planning, evacuation centres and community participation.