What Does a “Chief Heat Officer” Do?
Civic leaders in some of America's hottest cities are taking action to deal with the increased frequency of heat waves in their communities. Last month, Los Angeles became the largest city to appoint a "Chief Heat Officer" to their city leadership team, following in the footsteps of Miami and Phoenix.
The new position in L.A. will coordinate emergency response plans and develop long-term strategies to reduce residents' exposure to heat, among other functions. Other cities around the world – including Athens, Greece, Monterrey, Mexico, and Santiago, Chile – have all created similar positions to deal with the trend towards higher temperatures – a trend often attributed to human-triggered climate change.
Trying to beat the heat:
- In Los Angeles, newly-appointed Chief Heat Officer Marta Segura explained that “most of our low-income rentals don't come with AC, or much less air-filtration systems,” adding that she’d look at building codes as part of a Heat Action Plan.
- Emergency departments in L.A. see an additional 1,500 patients a day during heat waves, which also typically cause an increase in deaths. Los Angeles County sees an average of 16 deaths on the first day of a heat wave, going up to 40 additional deaths by the fifth day.
- Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the U.S., says the Environmental Protection Agency. Heat has caused 11,000 deaths in the U.S. since 1979, though this figure could be even higher because heat-related deaths often go unreported.
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