A growing number of Chief Heat Officers are popping up around the world. These are local government-appointed officials who are tasked with dedicating resources to combat the growing risks and impacts of extreme heat. So far three cities on the planet have appointed a CHO. Miami in Florida US was the first to appoint one, followed by Athens (Greece) and then Freetown (Sierra Leone). The idea to create the role of a CHO was seeded by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, a nonprofit organisation that works with cities, globally, to fund climate-resilience solutions. One of the foundation’s arms, the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance helps fund this initiative.
Why is it important?
A dedicated CHO is a way to focus attention and resources on the problem of extreme and rising heat. The effects of extreme heat, dubbed the “silent killer”, are being generally underestimated. Heat waves cause more deaths than any other climate-related natural disasters in the US. They also affect the health and economic wellbeing of people across the world. In a world first, the mayor of Seville, Spain announced that the city will give heat waves official names and categorise them, in much the same way this is done for hurricanes and tropical storms. The hope is that such a naming system will make people take the heat waves more seriously. There is an urgent need for cities to allocate resources to mitigate the effects of extreme heat, especially for vulnerable communities who are often the most impacted.
What can businesses do about it?
Businesses need to assess whether their employees are being exposed to excessive heat and institute protective measures. In a similar way to cities appointing CHOs, businesses, particularly those with employees exposed to heat, could appoint personnel to formulate heat action plans for the company. These plans could be formulated in consultation with a city’s CHO. Heatstroke and heat-related illnesses and accidents are becoming more common as temperatures soar. These could lead to legal action against companies if there are insufficient occupational safety measures in place.
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By Faeeza Khan
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