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Early season B.C. heat wave: High health risk for parts of Metro Vancouver

A late spring heat wave already anticipated to be record-breaking is expected to push the mercury into potentially dangerous territory for those with risk factors in Metro Vancouver as doctors warn hospitals are already “on red alert.”

With forecasted temperatures from the high 20s to low 30s, health officials are urging those at highest risk to be extremely cautious since our bodies haven’t had time to gradually acclimate to warmer temperatures, as they usually do. 

“There is some concern since this early in the season most people really aren't expecting this kind of heat and we need to let people know to be prepared,” said Dr. Michael Schwandt, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.

Anyone who’s had heat stroke in the past, those with heart or lung issues, or on certain medications are most at risk. Seniors, people with disabilities, children and pregnant people, and people with substance use disorder are also among those likely to be disproportionately impacted.

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a Special Weather Statement Wednesday afternoon, but said the temperatures fall just short of the criteria for a formal heat warning and the emergency health responses that would follow. 

“We're going to see lots of broken records for daytime maximums over the course of the coming days, particularly Saturday, Sunday, and maybe Monday,” said preparedness meteorologist, Armel Castellan, describing the incoming weather as significant heat for this time of year.

“The overnight temperatures are going to recover, so we're going to be below heat warning criteria,” he said.”


ECCC issued the special weather statement shortly after B.C.’s emergency room physicians issued an unprecedented announcement that they consider the province’s hospitals to be “on red alert.”

As CTV News was first to report this week, they have confirmed that Langley Memorial Hospital emergency department is overrun but insist other hospitals are facing similar struggles, insisting the “dire situation we are facing now cannot continue.”

During the 2021 heat dome, 595 British Columbians died from hyperthermia, most of them indoors, but last year the temperatures weren’t as severe and yet another 16 died due to extreme heat exposure.

But deaths aren’t the only metric. 

“We do see increased rates of hospitalization and visits to the emergency room during heat events, frequently and it can often be hard to detect the early stages (of heat exhaustion or heat stroke),” said Schwandt.

The BCCDC’s British Columbia Heat Impacts Prediction System map indicates that Vancouver, Richmond, the Tri-Cities, North Shore, the Sunshine Coast, Surrey, Langley and Delta are all at “high” health risk on Sunday. East of that area, Fraser Health is identified as having a moderate health risk, as is southern Vancouver Island from Victoria to Nanaimo and Port Alberni.

The BCCDC’s British Columbia Heat Impacts Prediction System map is shown, highlighting the risk in different regions.


The provincial government, health authorities and emergency officials had been roundly criticized for their disastrous response and lack of preparation before the 2021 heat dome, including poorly communicating the risks. 

Last year, a revamped health heat alert system provided timely and clear warnings about the risks of incoming weather systems and the emergency text alert system was expanded to provide warnings in the event of extreme heat.

Sources tell CTV News that a lot of work has happened behind the scenes to ensure that the system runs smoothly and on Thursday, the BCCDC is leading a technical briefing on the BC Heat Alert and Response System for journalists, providing a technical briefing on what to expect from them through the warmer months. 

BC EHS already warned paramedics and dispatchers about the incoming weather system on Tuesday and says, “we now have an improved ability to monitor the system as a whole, to ensure we have the capacity to respond to urgent calls as a priority should there be a sudden spike in emergency calls” among other measures. 

“I think our system's in a very different place now than in the 2021 heat dome,” said Schwandt. “The communications are expected to be much more consistent, the understanding of the thresholds when we need to communicate to the public is much more clear.” Top Stories

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