6 people dead since start of heat wave, as Montreal unveils its emergency response plan

03 Jul 2018 | Canada
6 people dead since start of heat wave, as Montreal unveils its emergency response plan

Six Montrealers have died in connection with the ongoing heat wave, and the city has unveiled its emergency response plan to avoid a spike in the number of deaths.

Health officials said Tuesday they raised the city's response level from "alert" to an "intervention" after noticing an increase in calls to 811 — the Info-Santé line — and to ambulances in relation to the extreme heat.

Since Monday, Montreal residents have made 640 calls for ambulances, officials said.

The city's public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, said officials want to avoid repeating what happened in 2010, when extreme heat caused 106 deaths in the Montreal area.

Under the city's existing guidelines, it can escalate its response plan from an alert to an intervention after three, consecutive days during which temperatures reach above 33 C.

But officials worried the number of deaths could increase sharply if they didn't act today, so they preemptively increased their response level, Drouin said.

"We see clearly that we're at the beginning of increases, which will continue to go up over the coming days," Drouin said.

Residents' safety of primary concern, mayor says
Mayor Valérie Plante said the safety of residents is "of the utmost importance" during the ongoing heat wave, which saw temperatures reach more than 45 C with the humidity this past weekend.

At a morning news conference, Plante said the city has already distributed 17,000 litres of water to organizations which work with the city's homeless.

It has also extended opening hours at pools and water pads.

As part of the city's plan, firemen and police officers have visited 1,300 homes across the Montreal area so far.

Plante said they will be visiting about 5,000 homes.

According to Bruno Lachance, Montreal fire department chief, firefighters check on citizens during these house calls, and if the heat is seriously impacting them, they will send them to hospital.

He said only one person has been referred to emergency services this way so far.

or her part, Plante encouraged Montrealers to help their neighbours and check in on those who may be more vulnerable to the heat, such as the elderly and people with medical conditions.

High heat and humidity until Thursday
Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for southern Quebec, which is expected to last until Thursday.

With the humidex, temperatures could reach between 35 and 40 C today, and over 40 C on Wednesday, the agency said.

Downtown long-term care facility finally receiving air conditioning today
Drouin, the public health director, said Montrealers can expect more heat waves in the future.

"With climate change, these episodes of extreme heat will be more and more frequent, and more and more intense," she said.

To beat the heat, the city recommends:

Drink lots of water before you are thirsty.
Take frequent cool showers.
Go to an air-conditioned environment for a few hours per day (mall, library, cinema)
Limit physical activity.
Wear light clothing.