California Launches $20M Campaign to Deal With Extreme Heat

July 11, 2023 by Dan McCue
California Launches $20M Campaign to Deal With Extreme Heat
A sign of the times in Death Valley, California.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With his state already broiling after days of intense heat, and with more in the forecast, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday launched what he called the nation’s first statewide multi-ethnic awareness and education campaign to keep Californians safe.

The two-year, $20 million campaign, Heat Ready CA, focuses on heat-sensitive groups at highest risk, including those 65 years of age or older, workers, and individuals with chronic illness, disabilities or those who are pregnant. 

It emphasizes the importance of staying cool, staying hydrated, and perhaps most of all, looking out for one another.

“The impacts of climate change have never been more clear — the hots continue to get hotter in our state and across the West putting millions of Californians at risk,” Newsom said in a written statement Tuesday.

“California is launching Heat Ready CA as another tool in the state’s arsenal to protect people from extreme heat. We’re asking everyone to stay alert to changing weather and take the necessary steps to keep themselves and their families safer from deadly heat waves,” he said.

Typically, California heat waves come toward the end of the summer, with September seeing the highest temperatures.

Last year, for instance, Death Valley, California, recorded what is believed to be a world record temperature for the month of September when the thermometer briefly hit 127 degrees on Sept. 1.

But with climate change, the hotter temperatures are coming earlier and staying longer.

In coming days, California and the southwestern U.S. are expected to experience extreme heat that the National Weather Service has said will “rival some of the worst heat waves this area has ever seen.” 

The Excessive Heat Warning will impact parts of Los Angeles County including the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys from Tuesday to Friday, where temperatures could reach up to 110 degrees.

California was expected to move into Phase II of its Extreme Temperature Response Plan later Tuesday, which calls for increased coordination among state agencies and local partners. 

Excessive heat watches and warnings are in effect across the southern half of the state, with additional watches, warnings and advisories possible farther north, including the San Joaquin Valley.  

The hottest temperatures in the state are currently forecast to last through Sunday. 

“Heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as respiratory problems, are among the potentially dangerous effects of extreme heat,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “But as with earthquakes, floods or other natural weather events, Californians can better protect themselves and others with a few simple tips.” 

Heat Ready CA is part of the governor’s larger Extreme Heat Action Plan, which is backed by more than $400 million, to guide the state’s response to heat waves.

Its tips, in more detail, include:

Stay cool. Close shades, windows and blinds. Set air conditioners between 75 and 80 degrees. If air-conditioning isn’t available, find a local cooling center or other air-conditioned public space (libraries, shopping malls, community centers, etc.). Try to stay indoors and wear loose, light-colored, lightweight clothing.​ 

While spending time in the water is refreshing on hot summer days, many California rivers are running faster, while lakes are deeper and colder than they’ve been in recent years. This makes them more dangerous than normal, even for strong swimmers.

Stay hydrated. Drink at least two cups of water every hour even if you’re not feeling thirsty. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks. 

Look after each other. Check in on friends and family, especially elderly relatives or neighbors. Call 911 if there are signs of high fever (103°F or higher) or in case of other emergencies.

Heat Ready CA is a public awareness and outreach campaign being led by the Governor’s Office of Community Partnerships and Strategic Communications, a newly established entity that manages the state’s highest-priority public engagement efforts. 

Through integrated outreach, advertising, social media and influencer engagement, the campaign is intended to reach people where they are through a culturally responsive approach. 

Toward that end, Heat Ready CA is engaging trusted messengers including multiethnic community-based organizations, ethnic media, meteorologists and other partners statewide. 

More than 100 community-based organizations form the trusted messenger network that will be doing outreach in every California county in over 30 languages. Through door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, community activations and other outreach efforts, these organizations will help California’s most vulnerable communities better prepare for extreme heat. 

The campaign’s website is available in English at HeatReadyCA.com, in Spanish at CuidateDelCalorCA.com, and will soon be accessible in 10 Asian languages. 

The website offers tips and resources for Californians, including people most vulnerable to heat-related health concerns, such as older adults, people with disabilities and chronic conditions, pregnant people, young children, urban residents and those without easy access to air conditioning or natural shade, among others.​

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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