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Early heatwave a warning of summer danger for vulnerable Victorians

An early summer heatwave for Victoria serves as a warning about the dangers posed to vulnerable people by extreme heat and should prompt individuals, organisations and authorities to prepare heatwave management plans, says the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“Victoria will experience temperatures in the high 30s over coming days, and vulnerable people who face greater risk will need assistance to beat the heat,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“The current El Niño event is predicted to scorch southern Australia over the next few months, producing record temperatures and raising the prospect of a spate of potentially deadly heatwaves.”

“Protracted periods of extreme heat pose a risk for people who lack the capacity – for a range of social and personal reasons – to change their circumstances or behaviour in extreme heat events. People who are homeless, in particular, are some of our most disadvantaged and marginalised community members, and are at significantly greater risk during heatwaves.”

“Organisations who work with disadvantaged and marginalised people are already preparing for the summer heat onslaught and urging the community to take care, be prepared and keep an eye on vulnerable family members and neighbours.”

“Heatwaves are Victoria’s biggest natural killers and hold a particular risk for people who are disadvantaged, including older people, people with chronic health conditions, people who are homeless and people with disability. People living in low quality housing, asylum seekers and refugees, and people who live in urban hot spots are also at significantly greater risk.”

“More Victorians die due to heatwave than as a result of all other natural emergencies combined. During the 2009 heatwave there were 374 excess deaths and during the heatwave in early 2014 there were 167 excess deaths.”

“The Victorian government has produced new Survive the Heat resources to encourage and educate individuals and the community to be aware of the impact of extreme heat on human health.”

VCOSS has produced an online guide on preparing for heatwaves.