Strategies to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Extreme Heat Events

February 2014

To better understand heat-related intervention strategies used by four cities in the nation, this study presents the results from 73 interviews. Representatives from government and non-governmental organizations, including public health, general social services, emergency management, meteorology, and the environmental planning sectors were interviewed. Those interviewed represented cities selected for their diverse demographics, climates, and climate adaptation strategies, including Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Phoenix, AZ.

Extreme heat events (EHEs) are more intense, more frequent and longer lasting in the 21st century. These events can disproportionately impact the health of low-income, minority, and urban populations. To better understand heat-related intervention strategies used by four cities in the nation, this study presents the results from 73 interviews. Representatives from government and non-governmental organizations, including public health, general social services, emergency management, meteorology, and the environmental planning sectors were interviewed. Those interviewed represented cities selected for their diverse demographics, climates, and climate adaptation strategies, including Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Phoenix, AZ.

We identified activities used by these leaders to reduce the harmful effects of heat for residents in their city. We also assessed obstacles and the approaches they used to evaluate these efforts. Local leaders provided a description of how local context (e.g., climate, governance and city structure) impacted heat preparedness. Despite the differences among study cities, political will and resource access were critical in driving heat-health related programming. Upon completion of our interviews, we convened leaders in each city to discuss these findings and their ongoing efforts through day-long workshops. Our findings and the recommendations that emerged from these workshops may inform other local or national efforts towards preventing heat-related morbidity and mortality.