Report: Extreme Heat and Human Mortality: A Review of Heat-Related Deaths in B.C. in Summer 2021

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British Columbia Coroners Service (BCCS)
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Description / Summary

Extreme heat events (EHE) are also described in the literature as “heat waves” or “heat domes”. A heat dome occurs when an area of high pressure stays over the same area for days or even weeks, trapping very warm air underneath - rather like a lid on a pot*. The definition of an extreme heat event varies based on many factors, including geographic location and weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and cloud cover as well as the duration of the event. During this type of event, the temperature is much hotter than average for a particular time and place. In late June 2021, British Columbia (BC) experienced an unprecedented heat dome which resulted in record temperatures across many parts of the province over several days. Temperatures started to rise on June 24 and continued increasing to a peak on June 28-29. At the peak, temperatures reached over 40⁰C in many parts of the province. Overnight temperatures were also uncharacteristically high. During the week of the EHE (June 25–July 1, 2021), the BC Coroners Service (BCCS) responded to a sudden and significant increase in deaths. More than 800 deaths were investigated by BCCS during that week, with 619 of these deaths later identified as being heat-related. The Chief Coroner convened a death review panel to review the circumstances around these deaths to identify actions to improve public safety and prevent future deaths. This multi-disciplinary panel was comprised of experts in emergency management, medicine, public health, First Nations health, seniors, city and municipal planning, health administration, poverty reduction, patient safety, policy, research, housing, police, fire and ambulance services. Most of the deceased were older adults with compromised health due to multiple chronic diseases and who lived alone.

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