Is it hot enough for you? It will be and experts want you to be prepared

It's going to get hot and humid this summer and local experts want you to be prepared to stay cool.

In a news conference Tuesday, Jennifer Smith, a national warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), said that most of the country can expect above-average temperatures this summer.

"There is a high probability of above-normal average temperatures for the summer season," she said. "It's important to note that this … does not indicate by how much temperatures are expected to be above normal, nor by how continuous those temperatures may be."

Most of the above-average temperatures will occur in the North, down into northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and then extend into southern Ontario and eastward toward Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Brandie Bevis, the health promotion and research analyst with the Region of Waterloo Public Health, said preparedness starts with paying attention to the weather patterns, knowing when the heat is coming, drinking a lot of water and keeping your body temperature at 37 C to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

"Some of the [heat exhaustion] symptoms that you might have are if you're feeling dizzy, lightheaded, you might feel nauseous, you might have a headache, you might [have a] rapid heartbeat, you might feel really thirsty," said Bevis.

"Heat stroke is a medical emergency. This is when you're going to want to call 911 and make sure that they get right to the hospital."

Bevis says symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, irritability, hallucinations and people may even lose consciousness.

Finding the hottest neighbourhoods

Heat waves are putting more vulnerable people at risk. Caroline Metz, the managing director of climate resilience and health at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, says city planners need new tools in the field of ecology, architecture and energy systems engineering to address the challenge.

She thinks cities should develop urban heat maps which collect air temperatures via sensors in different parts of the city.

"That shows on a map where the hottest neighbourhoods and the streets are in the city because the heat isn't distributed equally," said Metz.

"This allows municipalities, which have limited funding, to prioritize where they spend money on improvements. So, you know, putting trees in place or opening cooling centres in the places where the people are who need it the most."

People beat the heat by the water at Meech Lake on Sept. 24, 2017. Heidi Staples submitted this photo to CBC Ottawa climatologist Ian Black as the city broke a weather record for the day with a high of 31 C.
People beat the heat by the water at Meech Lake on Sept. 24, 2017. Heidi Staples submitted this photo to CBC Ottawa climatologist Ian Black as the city broke a weather record for the day with a high of 31 C.

Region of Waterloo Public Health said preparedness starts with paying attention to the weather patterns, knowing when the heat is coming, drinking a lot of water and keeping your body temperature at 37 C to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. (@inspiredxideas/Twitter)

Made in the shade

Metz said homeowners should also use proper shading on windows to stop solar radiation from entering the home as well as keeping a cooler room in your home.

Both Metz and Patrick Gilbride, the executive director at Reep Green Solutions, promote planting trees and using cool air created by heat pumps.

Gilbride is a fan of trees and encourages people to plant them on their property as a first defence to heat.

"By standing in the shade by direct sunlight, you can feel a 10 to 15 degree difference. And then the actual surface temperature taken under a shade tree versus standing on asphalt can be 20 degrees cooler or more," said Gilbride.

"So if you plant a tree on the southeast or west side of your house, then it can help to keep it cooler inside as well."

As for heat pumps, Gilbride suggest homeowners who have an air conditioner that is at the end of its life consider a heat pump as they operate much more efficiently than their traditional air conditioner and can also reduce the use of fossil fuels.