King County Announces First Extreme Heat Containment Strategy in Region – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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KING COUNTY, Wash. – On the anniversary of the deadliest climate-related disaster in our region’s history, King County leaders announced the development of their first-ever Extreme Heat Response Strategy.

Exactly one year ago, triple-digit temperatures swept across the Pacific Northwest, claiming the lives of 38 people in western Washington in just three days.

The deadly heatwave of June 2021, combined with growing concerns about climate change and extreme heat, has prompted King County leaders to act, creating the first region in the region Extreme heat mitigation strategy.

“I view this extreme heat event as a disturbing reality check,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health Officer – Seattle & King County.

“Perhaps the worst news of all – from a health perspective – is that from now on we not only expect more heatwaves, but the heatwaves we are seeing will be longer and more intense,” said Dr. Duchin.

According to a King County press release, “The Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy will be an integrated approach that engages and mobilizes county departments, cities, communities, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers and emergency responders. It will identify actions needed to improve the region’s immediate response to extreme heat while also adapting the built environment to better prepare people and property for prolonged, dangerous heat waves.”

The Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy will work in two ways: First, immediate action will be taken to help people cope with high temperatures during a heat wave. Second, it will adjust our already built environment to handle heat better, especially in developed areas with pavement.

Data from 2020 heat mapping project conducted by King County with the City of Seattle identified harmful, unfair impacts that hot summers are having on the region.

According to King County, data analysis shows that areas with harsh landscapes are held in heat longer than areas with more natural landscapes, which in turn increases the likelihood of heat-related health problems. The data showed a difference of up to 20 degrees in less urbanized areas with more land cover and less development.

The disparity is known as the urban heat island effect.

King County submitted this data as part of its application for the FEMA grant for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities. If the grant is approved, the district will receive $125,000 to support the development of the Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy.

“With this strategy, we want to expand our toolbox, but also determine how best to apply these tools to our region,” said Lara Whitely Binder, program manager for King County’s climate preparedness program.

The short-term plan, already in place, includes adding more subway bus shelters at hot spots, planting more trees as part of the county’s 3 million trees initiative, activating a volunteer-based communications network to Disseminating information quickly, and providing energy-efficient air conditioning options for low-income households.

The long-term plan is still a work in progress, but could include changes to our current built environment, changes in building codes, depaving of areas to create green space, adding water features in more neighborhoods, and preserving vacant land.

Whitely Binder said the county hopes to announce a more detailed long-term strategy in about a year.

King County emergency management chiefs said the county and its partners have already improved tactical responses after last year’s deadly heat wave.

These responses include the creation and distribution of multilingual material informing the public how to behave safely during heat waves, updated public health advice during extreme heat, increasing the languages ​​for emergency alerts from two to nine, and activating the Emergency Bureaux The network of management volunteers who help disseminate public information.

King County residents can also sign up for emergency notifications HERE.

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