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Helping Vancouver seniors during heatwaves focus of new plan by Park Board

Last Updated Jul 20, 2021 at 6:24 am PDT

Hundreds of people died in B.C. in the last week of June, in a period when temperatures rose into the 40s. (Image Credit: CityNews)

Vancouver Park Board approved a motion Monday night to create a plan for future heatwaves

Hundreds of people died during B.C.'s heatwave, and many of them were seniors

Park Board Commissioner Tricia Barker says existing services should step in to check on people

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After last month’s deadly heatwave, the Vancouver Park Board has supported a move to create a plan to help seniors and vulnerable people.

Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Trisha Barker said with climate change, heatwaves may become more deadly.

“We are going to hit another heat dome, I’m sure of it. We are in a climate emergency, we have to make sure we are helping the people who really do need our assistance,” she said.

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During the period of June 25 to July 1, the BC Coroners Service says 808 people died, four times the average number of deaths during that period. The Vancouver Coastal Health region reported 202 deaths.

It’s believed the extreme heat played a part in many of those deaths, and many people who died were seniors who lived alone. Temperatures broke records, with many areas seeing upwards of 40 degrees Celcius.

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Barker urged a better plan to keep residents safe moving forward. This could involve city staff or community centre employees physically checking in on the vulnerable, or calling them to make sure they’re okay.

“They are not on the internet, they don’t have smartphones. We don’t usually see them. And those are a lot of the people who died that weekend. We have to find out a better system to check on those people.”

On Monday night, the Vancouver Park Board approved the motion. Now the city, province and Community Centre Associations will look at how they could work together to strengthen existing services that could ultimately save lives.

“Door knocking, phoning people. In an emergency we have to be better at contacting people. Not just relying on sign up on a list or have your friend and family contact you,” she said.

Following the heatwave, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 85 new full-time paramedics and 30 full-time dispatchers will be hired. He also says the province will bring in 22 new ambulances.

B.C. has also launched an independent review, led by the chief coroner into how the province handled last month’s heatwave.

Files from Marcella Bernardo and Denise Wong