21 November 2022

Western Australians warned on deadly heatwave danger this summer

As the summer season approaches, WA Health has adopted a new system to warn the community about the health dangers of heatwaves.

Based on the nationally consistent Australian Warning System, the new warnings have three phases – similar to bushfire alerts – ‘advice’, ‘watch and act’ and ‘emergency warning’.

A heatwave is defined as a period of abnormally and uncomfortably hot weather, that is unusual for the location and could impact human health, infrastructure and services.

Chief Health Officer, Dr Andrew Robertson said many people were unaware that heatwaves were typically Australia’s most destructive natural hazard, except for disease epidemics, in terms of loss of life.

“Heatwaves pose increased health risks to our most vulnerable, including elderly people, pregnant mothers and very young children,” Dr Robertson said.

“People who are fit and well can also be affected and should modify their activities in the warmest part of the day to reduce the impact from an extreme heatwave.

“As our climate warms, the threat from heatwaves is likely to grow – there is international research showing that at 1.5°C of global warming, 13.8 per cent of the world’s population will be exposed to ‘severe heatwaves’ at least once every five years, while at 2°C the increase in exposure is almost three times higher.

“It is important people are not complacent. I urge community members to familiarise themselves with the new warnings; and prepare for the coming summer season.”

The Department of Health is the hazard management agency for heatwaves in Western Australia. This involves managing the adverse effects of the heatwave emergency across the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery phases.

In December 2020, the Chief Health Officer released the Climate Health WA Inquiry report and made recommendations to improve climate change mitigation and public health adaptation strategies; including “strengthening adaptation in the specific areas of extreme weather events, heatwaves, mosquito control and air pollution”.

Heatwave alerts will be issued via www.emergency.wa.gov.au, ABC Radio and other broadcasters.

For tips on preparing for heatwaves, visit HealthyWA.



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WA Health Media

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E: media@health.wa.gov.au

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*Research shows that from 2000 to 2018, at least 354 people in Australia were killed by heatwaves:

Heatwave fatalities in Australia, 2001–2018: An analysis of coronial records - ScienceDirect