Heatwaves are expected to increase with our changing climate and are identified as a key risk to health and wellbeing, especially for vulnerable groups including the elderly and the very young, persons with existing chronic health conditions, low-income households and persons that are socially isolated. The risk of extreme heat days is higher in urban areas due to the Urban Heat Island effect, where built up areas experience higher temperatures than surrounding areas due to large amounts of exposed concrete, asphalt and steel which can retain heat and release it into the night.
Throughout the Greater Melbourne Region, Emergency Management Victoria, Department of Health, and Municipal Councils have completed heatwave response plans or heat health plans. These vary in the information given and enact a hierarchy of responses. Local governments are often expected to provide a level of leadership during a heatwave, but many councils are lacking Heat Health plans or their current plans are outdated. This is in part due to the strain placed on emergency management in municipal councils due to the Covid-19 crisis. Despite much activity, there appears to be an absence of a coordinated, regional approach to providing safe spaces for vulnerable people during heat waves. This project aims to explore the issues further and determine appropriate further actions.