Being safe during a heat event means keeping informed about weather alerts, checking in on people who might be most at risk, knowing how to keep cool and knowing where to go to get relief from heat.

Provincial heat alert levels

The provincial government launched the BC Heat Alert and Response System (BC HARS) in June 2022. The goal of this two-tier alert system is to help ensure people, First Nations communities and local governments have the tools they need to stay safe during heat events.

BC HARS includes two categories of heat events: heat warnings and extreme heat emergencies. In the event of a heat warning or extreme heat emergency, the provincial government and local authorities will take appropriate actions based on their individual heat plans and processes.

B.C. Heat Alert Response System

For extreme heat emergencies, the Province is prepared to issue alerts through the national public alerting system, Alert Ready, which is already used to issue Amber alerts and tsunami, wildfire and flood warnings.

The criteria for the BC Heat Alert and Response System are as follows:

  • Heat warning

    Two or more consecutive days in which daytime maximum temperatures are expected to reach or exceed regional temperature thresholds and nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to be above regional temperature thresholds.

    A moderate increase in public health risk.

  • Extreme heat emergency

    Heat warning criteria have been met and daytime maximum temperatures are expected to substantively increase day over day for three or more consecutive days.

    A very high increase in public health risk.

    Temperature thresholds for the Fraser Health Authority region are as follows:

    • Southwest: daytime high of 29 C, nighttime low of 16 C
    • Fraser East: daytime high of 33 C, nighttime low of 17 C

    See the Environment and Climate Change Canada website for a description of the geographical regions.

    A heat warning would be called for the Fraser Health region if either the 29 degree threshold is met in Southwest B.C. (as measured at YVR Airport) or if the 33 degree threshold is met in Faster East (as measured at Abbotsford Airport).

Heat warnings are expected one to three times per summer.

Extreme heat emergencies are expected once or twice a decade.

How to take care of yourself and others

  • Tips to keep you cool and healthy during the heat

    If you need health related information, please call 8-1-1 for support. If you or a loved one are already connected to a Fraser Health community support service, please reach out to your provider.

    If you would like to be connected to social or community services, please call 2-1-1.

    If you or a loved one is in distress, please call 9-1-1.

    • Drink plenty of water even before you feel thirsty and stay in a cool place.
    • Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how to respond.
    • Check in with friends, family and neighbours, especially those who may be more susceptible to heat illness, who are living alone and without air conditioning.
    • If you have a window air conditioner, place it in a room you can close off from the rest of your home. Use the room as your cooling off space and try to stay in there as much as possible during the hottest parts of the day.
    • It can get dangerously, life-threateningly hot indoors without air conditioning (AC). If it reaches 31 degrees Celsius indoors, it is time to relocate to a cool, shady outdoor space, a community cooling centre, or stay with a friend or family.
    • If you don’t have AC at home, there are some other things you can do to stay cool:
      • Take lukewarm baths/showers to cool down. Even footbaths can help.
      • Wear a wet shirt or apply damp towels to your skin.
      • Keep your home cooler by shading the windows from the outside using awnings or shutters or from the inside using curtains or blinds (wherever possible).
      • Seek a cool place such as a tree-shaded area, swimming pool, shower/bath, or air-conditioned spot like a public building.
      • Stay with friends or family who have air conditioning or a basement.
    • Fans in the window can provide indoor cooling when the temperature outside is lower than the temperature inside. However, in high heat, fans aimed at people do not bring down our body temperatures significantly, particularly for people who already have impaired cooling responses. At temperatures of 35C or higher, fans can actually increase body temperature.
    • For people who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions, fans are not recommended during heat warning events, as people may feel cooler on the outside while not cooling down on the inside. In these cases it is important to monitor temperatures and take the precautions on this page.
    • Schedule outdoor activities only during the coolest time of the day, avoiding 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when temperatures and sunlight are at their highest.
    • If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of non-alcoholic fluids each hour. Limit outdoor activity during the day to early morning and evening.
    • Never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle during warm weather.
    • If you have children in your home, make sure you’ve taken precautions to prevent falls from windows and balconies.
  • Local government cooling centres

    Cooling centres are air-conditioned public spaces set up by local governments to temporarily support people during a heat wave. Cooling centres can help prevent heat-related illness in people who don’t have access to air conditioned spaces by providing them with a cool environment, water and medical attention, if needed.

    Many communities will have cooling centres in malls, recreation centres or libraries equipped with air conditioning where you can cool down. Connect with your local government to see where cooling centres would be in your community.

    The community response locations - extreme temperature portal, new for 2023, has been created for Indigenous communities and local governments to help share cooling centre, water fountain and spray park locations with the public during extreme temperatures. Please find the map here.

    *Please note that locations are provided by local governments and Indigenous communities, should they decide to opt-in. They are not monitored by the Government of B.C. or any health authority.

    Information by local government

  • Caring for and checking on others

    • For guidance on how to check in on others, please see the Fraser Health/Vancouver Coastal Health Guidance document for community organizations and the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health guide (available in Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Punjabi, and French) for checking on others, in person or remotely, during extreme heat events.
    • People living alone are at high risk of severe heat-related illness. Check in regularly for signs of heat-related illness amongst those who live alone, particularly older people, those with mental illness or those who are unable to leave their homes that do not have air conditioners.
    • Contact friends, family or neighbours if you will be checking on them or vice versa. Create a buddy system where you check in with each other twice a day.
    • Some of the people, including seniors, most susceptible to severe heat-related illness and death may not perceive that they are getting too hot. Check on them in person to evaluate the temperature indoors; if you can only check in on them by phone, ask them to tell you what it says on their thermostat. Persistent indoor temperatures over 31 degrees Celsius can be high risk.
      • If they are experiencing high temperatures and are not able to cool themselves, ask to take them to a nearby cooling shelter if available.
    • Advise those in your care that a cool or tepid bath can help, as well as a legs-only bath for those with mobility issues or those who may require assistance.
    • If you are a caregiver, keep a close eye on those in your care by visiting them at least twice a day, and ask yourself these questions:
      • Are they drinking enough water?
      • Do they have access to air conditioning?
      • Do they know how to keep cool?
      • Do they show any signs of heat stress?
    • Check with your local municipality about cooling centres for those who need them. If needed, offer to transport people in your care.
    • If someone seems unwell due to extreme heat, move them to a cool shady spot, help them get hydrated, sponge or spray with cool water, fan the person, and call for medical assistance if required.
  • Wildfire smoke during a heat event

    Wildfire smoke may happen at the same time as very hot weather. Smoke and extreme heat can both impact your health, but they have different effects on the body. Some people are susceptible to experiencing health effects from both wildfire smoke and extreme heat, but overheating is more dangerous for most people at risk.

    • Heat and smoke may interact to produce more severe symptoms.
    • Smoke and heat both put the human body under stress.
    • Combined exposure may lead to more severe symptoms.
    • Overheating is more dangerous than smoke exposure for most people at risk.
    • Cooler, cleaner indoor air is the best way to protect yourself.
    • Learn more here.

    Learn more about wildfire smoke and the actions you can take by going to our air quality and wildfire smoke webpage.


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