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[Impact Story] emergency preparedness during BC heat wave

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The province’s top emergency officials are urging vulnerable people, including seniors, to prepare for the longest heat wave of the summer, and United Way British Columbia, in collaboration with our partner agencies, are working hard to stem the possibility of heat-related illnesses or deaths in the communities we serve.

The Langley Senior Resources Society has compiled and distributed more than 200 cooling kits to low-income older adults, thanks to a $25,000 one-time emergency preparedness and response grant from United Way BC.

“Some seniors don’t necessarily realize that they are warm. A lot of our seniors live in apartment buildings, they are not as mobile, they sit and are not aware that their bodies are overheating,” says Wendy Rachwalski, manager of Community Services.

So to help seniors beat the heat, the kits included a small and compact air-cooling unit, Electrolytes, a spray bottle, neck wrap, fan, and a thermometer/humidity monitor donated by BC Hydro.

Seniors like Maria Schultz, 90, received the cooling kit, which she credits for finally getting a good night’s sleep.

“It’s the perfect thing to have,” Maria explains from her independent living facility.

Like many seniors, Maria lives alone on a fixed income and can’t afford a modern air conditioning unit. Wendy says the unprecedented heat dome experienced in 2021 claimed many lives, including some of their clients. The agency is determined to mitigate heat-related injuries this summer with initiatives like the cooling kits, as well as proactive phone call check-ins and the distribution of educational materials.

“It is all about awareness and being prepared,” Wendy says.

Tips include staying hydrated, visiting air-conditioned public spaces, keep shades and blinds closed during the day, monitor the indoor temperature, and wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing. 

United Way BC has awarded grants to approximately 60 seniors-serving organizations across the Northern, Interior, Island, Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities to build emergency preparedness and response programs and resources.

Other initiatives include drafting multilingual resources for volunteers and older adults, development of volunteer strategies to mobilize volunteers for wellness checks and delivery of emergency kits, and emergency preparedness workshops and training.

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  • Date

    Aug 15, 2023

  • By

    Shelby Alexander


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