Visit VicEmergency for current information on extreme heat emergencies.
A heatwave is a period of unusual and uncomfortably hot weather that can affect anybody. It can also affect community infrastructure such as the power supply, public transport and other services. Heatwaves can make existing medical conditions worse and cause a heat-related illness, which may be fatal.
The harmful effects of climate change on community health and the environment were demonstrated by the extreme heatwave conditions experienced in Victoria between 26 January 2009 and 1 February 2009. This heatwave had disastrous mortality outcomes with 374 more recorded deaths than the same time in the previous year. This is higher than the 173 lives lost during the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.
Victoria will expect to experience an increase in frequency and severity of heatwaves during the summer season.
Who is at risk?
Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illness such as cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke those listed below are at risk the most:
- The aged (65+), babies, preschool children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
- People with pre-existing medical condition e.g. diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness or people taking certain medication's.
- People with disabilities.
- Culturally and Linguistically perse (CALD) Communities.
- Low income / homeless people.
- People with limited transport options.
- People living alone or with little social contact.
- People who work and play outdoors.
Visit the Better Health Channel website for more information on heat stress and heat-related illness.
Advice for staying healthy in the heat
- Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty (if your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much to drink during hot weather).
- Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers.
- Spend as much time as possible in cool or air-conditioned buildings (for example, shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres).
- Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds. Open the windows when there is a cool breeze.
- Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you must go out, stay in the shade and take plenty of water with you. Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose fitting clothing.
- Look after yourself and keep in touch with sick or frail friends, neighbours and relatives.
Check out Staying healthy in the heat community resources for further information.
Summer weather conditions can cause power outages. The Your Guide to Power Outages brochure has some simple things you can do at home to prepare for and be safe in an event of a power outage.
Consider your need for back-up power if you are highly reliant on electricity. Remember power outages can also affect phones, radios and water pumps.
- Have a battery-powered radio and spare batteries or a wind-up radio available to hear any alerts and warnings in case power fails.
- Have a landline with a card, a fully charged mobile phone as a backup and a spare battery.
- Have a non-electric pump available that can be operated from an alternative water supply such as a swimming pool, concrete or metal tank or dam.
- If you have special needs contact your electricity retail company.
For more information visit Your Guide to Power Outages.
If you are feeling affected by the heat or you believe someone you know may be affected by the heat visit the Nurse-On-Call website or contact them on 1300 60 60 24.
For life threatening emergencies call 000.