Are Cities in America Ready for Heat-Related Emergencies?

The recent record-breaking heat on Planet Earth is worrying scientists and people all around the world. Experts in the US wonder if cities there are safe for their citizens to live in during heat waves. A heat wave is a prolonged stretch of higher-than-normal temperatures that occurs across several days. Over 700 individuals lost their lives in Chicago during a heat wave in 1995. Poor neighborhoods with a predominance of Black residents saw the most deaths. There were a lot of houses in those neighborhoods without air conditioning Furthermore, the city’s electrical grid could not meet the demand for air cooling. There were consequent power disruptions. For a week, the temperature hovered around 40 degrees Celsius.

Since then, Chicago has seen significant changes. A significant amount of public outreach and relocation are part of the new activities. When hot weather is expected, they alert individuals and, if required, relocate them to safer, colder dwelling areas. Similar operations have been developed in other cities across the nation, such as Miami, Florida, and Los Angeles, California. In those places and others, planning and response activities are headed by a local “chief heat officer.” However, several scientists and professionals in urban planning are concerned that the current rules and procedures are insufficient. Professor of social sciences at New York University Eric Klinenberg is the author of a book about the devastating heat wave that hit Chicago. He declared, “I know of no city that is really ready for the worst-case scenario.”

City officials in Chicago have been trying to figure out who is at risk on really hot days. Those folks receive text alerts and other notifications when hot weather is approaching. But according to anthropologist Bharat Venkat, a system that functions well in one location might not in another. He oversees the University of California, Los Angeles’s Heat Lab program. Venkat stated that “thermal inequality” is a problem in many regions. He advised communities to invest in public safety measures for their citizens and employees. He added that while it might seem expensive, the cost of doing nothing would be much higher. New mechanisms have been implemented in Indian, German, and French cities to keep citizens safe during heat waves. The modifications followed heat waves that killed thousands of people in recent years.

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