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British Columbia is in for an 'average' summer, but indoor heat still poses risk: experts

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While the summer solstice may be a day earlier than usual this year, the season is looking average—temperature-wise –according to the latest modelling by Environment Canada.

British Columbians were warned to brace for an extra hot and dry summer during an update on the province’s heat preparedness strategy last month, but now ECCC Meteorologist Brian Proctor says the outlook has changed due to a waning El Nino.

“El Nino has really dissipated almost completely in the Pacific at this point and time so it’s looking like a much more normal summer,” says Proctor.

After a relatively cool May and start of June, Proctor says British Columbians may not be acclimatized to the higher temperatures forecast across the province this weekend.

“It’s important to stay hydrated and seek shelter or shade when you can to try and cool yourself down,” he emphasizes.

B.C. Emergency Health Services posted a video on social media this week, reminding people to put plans in place to stay safe and cool this summer.

“During heat events, it’s actually the indoor heat when it rises that is the cause of more illness, injury and even death,” BCEHS spokesperson Brian Twaites says.

Those who are younger than five years old or older than 65 are some of the people who are most at risk of heat-related illness, according to the video, as are people who live alone, pregnant folks, and those with underlying health conditions.

Vancouver Emergency Management Agency’s director, Daniel Stevens, says many mental health conditions prevent people from understanding when their bodies are getting too hot.

He adds that it’s important for people to be aware of what indoor temperatures are dangerous, which can range from 26 C to 31 C depending on the individual.

“The number one thing to do in the heat is to look out for each other,” says Stevens. “If you know people who need to get to a cool place and don’t have it, invite them to your place or help them get to a cooling centre.”

During the summer season, the city implements extra services to keep residents safe—including by installing temporary water fountains in addition to the 200 permanent ones across the city, and misting stations that are available all day, every day.

For those who are unable to leave their homes, the city distributes cool kits through community partners, which include things like temperatures and ice packs.

Keeping cool at home is essential, especially since the heat can be a huge sleep disrupter, according to Dr. Wendy Hall, professor emeritus of UBC’s Nursing School.

“Not only do people sleep less time, but they have less deep sleep and less REM sleep—your dreaming sleep—so that really interferes with your whole sleep architecture,” she says.

Hall advises people invest in an air conditioner if they can, or buy a fan and place a bowl of ice in front of it to stay cool.

Other cost-effective options to beat the heat include keeping your pillowcase in the freezer during the day, or taking ice packs, ice water and wet cloths to bed.

Stevens recommends that people download the Alertable app, so that they can stay up to date with the city supports that are available.

“If you know people who maybe aren’t as plugged in, make sure they’re aware of what they need to do. Young people, elderly people – many of them have challenges making decisions for themselves. Help them out and provide the information and support when you can,” he emphasizes.

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