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“We’re Having a Heat Wave…”


Texas Cities are dealing with the challenge of unusually extreme heat.  Extreme heat can have deadly consequences, but they are preventable. In the future, cities need to include extreme heat in annual planning and may need to commit significant resources to heat-resilience.  The specific strategies and measures a city employees to handle extreme heat will vary depending on its location, resources, and level of preparedness.  Here are some common ways in which cities may deal with extreme heat:

  1. Heat action plans: Many cities develop heat action plans, which are comprehensive strategies to cope with extreme heat events.  These plans typically involve early warning systems, communication strategies, and coordination among various government agencies and community organizations.
  2. Cooling centers: Cities may establish cooling centers in collaboration with the county, the faith-based organizations, and other groups.  Cooling centers, also known as respite centers, are places where residents may seek refuge from the heat during extreme heat events.  These centers are often air-conditioned facilities such as community centers, libraries, public buildings, or religious facilities.  Water and food are usually available at the cooling centers, as well as first aid for heat relief.
  3. Public awareness and education: Educating the public about the risks associated with extreme heat and providing guidance on how to protect themselves can be critical in reducing heat-related health issues.
  4. Emergency response plans: Cities should have emergency response plans in place to address heal-related health emergencies, such as heat strokes and other heat-related illnesses.
  5. Heat-health warning systems: Developing systems to notify residents of impending heatwaves, and to forecast and communicate heat-health warnings can help raise awareness and enable timely actions to protect vulnerable populations.  Such warnings should also provide guidance on heat-adaptive measures, such as staying hydrated, seeking shade, and avoiding strenuous outdoor activities during extreme heat.
  6. Collaborations with community organizations: Engaging with community-based, county-wide, and faith-based organizations can help ensure that vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income residents, and the homeless, have access to necessary resources and support during extreme heat events.

It is important to note that different cities face unique challenges and may adopt tailored strategies to cope with extreme heat based on their specific circumstances and available resources.  As extreme heat events continue, cities will likely need to adapt and innovate to effectively address extreme heat and its associated challenges.

Cities should plan to become heat resilient, which involves more than dealing with one extreme heat event.  Heat resilience involves adopting strategies and implementing measures to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat and create a more adaptable environment. For example,  a city might use planning and design to promote the creation of parks to absorb heat and provide shade or encourage mixed use developments to reduce the need for long commutes.  For further reading, see the following planning guide from the American Planning Association.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. 

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