Montreal Skyline
05 Jul 2018

Death toll rising in Montreal heat wave - here´s the city emergency response plan

Communication Group
Civilian Deaths
Natural Disasters

The heat-related death toll jumped to 33 across Quebec Thursday, as Environment Canada issued a smog and heat warning for Thursday, reports CBC News.

Video: (Above) See the Montreal Fire Department do house calls to check up on population at risk and give advice for how to cool off during high temperatures.

As of midday, Montérégie's public health department reported two more deaths caused by the worst heat wave Quebec in decades. Montreal's health department reported 18, and seven have been reported in the Eastern parts of Montreal.

One death in Laval, five in Centre-du-Québec and another in Mauricie brought the total number of heat-related deaths in the province up to 33, and more are expected.

None of the deaths took place in public health institutions, according to Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois. 

"We have to remain vigilant and continue to take precautions to avoid health problems," Charlebois said Thursday at a news conference.

The heat wave began on June 29. Only now, a week later, is there some relief in the forecast.

A smog warning is also in effect for those areas as, Environment Canada states, high concentrations of ozone are expected and will result in poor air quality.

"High concentrations of pollutants are expected to persist through tonight," the agency says, noting smog is especially hard on asthmatic children and people with respiratory ailments or heart disease.

 

106 dead in heatwave eight years ago

The city's public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, said officials want to avoid repeating what happened in 2010, when extreme heat caused 106 deaths in the Montreal area.

Under the city's existing guidelines, it can escalate its response plan from an alert to an intervention after three, consecutive days during which temperatures reach above 33 C.

But officials worried the number of deaths could increase sharply if they didn't act today, so they preemptively increased their response level, Drouin said.

"We see clearly that we're at the beginning of increases, which will continue to go up over the coming days," Drouin said.

 

Residents' safety of primary concern, mayor says

Mayor Valérie Plante said the safety of residents is "of the utmost importance" during the ongoing heat wave, which saw temperatures reach more than 45 C with the humidity this past weekend.

At a morning news conference, Plante said the city has already distributed 17,000 litres of water to organizations which work with the city's homeless.

It has also extended opening hours at pools and water pads.

As part of the city's plan, firemen and police officers have visited 1,300 homes across the Montreal area so far.

Plante said firefighters will be visiting about 5,000 homes.

According to Bruno Lachance, Montreal fire department chief, firefighters check on citizens during these house calls, and if the heat is seriously impacting them, they will send them to hospital.

He said only one person has been referred to emergency services this way so far.

Drouin, the public health director, said Montrealers can expect more heat waves in the future.

"With climate change, these episodes of extreme heat will be more and more frequent, and more and more intense," she said.

 

To beat the heat, the city recommends:

 

  • Drink lots of water before you are thirsty.
  • Take frequent cool showers.
  • Go to an air-conditioned environment for a few hours per day (mall, library, cinema)
  • Limit physical activity.
  • Wear light clothing.