Tuesday, 29 November 2022 12:20

Get ‘Heat Smart’— in time for Western Sydney’s killer heat Featured

Plan and prepare for extreme heat and heatwaves in the lead-up to summer. Plan and prepare for extreme heat and heatwaves in the lead-up to summer. WSROC

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), is urging Western Sydney residents to plan and prepare for extreme heat and heatwaves in the lead-up to summer.

“Heat kills more Australians than floods, fires and storms combined,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“Elderly people and very young people are most at risk from heat stress, however, everyone is susceptible to extreme temperatures.

“It’s important to plan for extreme heat and heatwaves — and prepare our homes and those we love for summer weather.

“For at-risk groups such as the elderly, people with chronic health conditions or very young children, talk to your doctor about what extra precautions you should take.”

“WSROC has been working with councils and local health districts to people prepare for heatwave events, including developing a range of ‘Heat Smart’ brochures in English and nine other languages to step households through heatwave planning.”

To download a brochure, Google ‘Heat Smart Western Sydney’ – or go to bit.ly/HeatSmart_WesternSydney

Councillor Calvert is especially urging residents follow WSROC’s ‘Start of Summer Checklist’:

  • Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor about how heat may affect your risk. Heat can worsen existing health conditions, while some medicines can affect our ability to cope with heat.
  • Check cooling works: This includes fridges, fans and air-conditioners. Don’t wait until the middle of a heatwave. Getting your air-conditioner serviced at the start of summer will ensure it is working efficiently when you need it most.
  • Put up shading to protect windows and walls from heat: One of the most effective ways to prevent the home heating up is by shading walls from the hot sun. Now is the time to think about putting up external shade, installing curtains.
  • Plan your cool spots: Decide whether you will stay home or go to a cool place such as a library, shopping centre, or friend’s home during a heat event. If travelling, consider how you will get there and back safely.
  • Plan for others: Think about how you will assist those that require care or support to stay safe. This could include children, family or pets.
  • Talk to others: Know who you can call if help is needed. The start of summer is a great time to get to know your neighbours, check their plans for the holiday period.
  • Prepare a blackout kit: Power outages are common during heatwaves and can affect key services like public transport, water and phone services. Your kit could include a torch and batteries, first aid kit and mobile power pack.
  • Prepare cool packs: It’s always handy to keep cool packs in the fridge or freezer for a hot day.

“From seeking medical advice, to preparing the home, or making plans with friends, family and neighbours we all have a role to play in getting prepared for heatwaves,” said Councillor Calvert.

Summer 2Why Western Sydney?

Western Sydney is particularly exposed to extreme heat due to local geography and weather patterns, including the prevalence of hot westerly winds and lack of cooling sea breezes.

The region experiences increasingly warm weather, and it is predicted that the number of hot days (30°C or higher) in Western Sydney will increase significantly.

Extreme Heat Facts

“Except for disease epidemics, extreme heat events are Australia’s worst natural hazard for human deaths,” said Councillor Calvert.

“Between 2001 to 2018 in Australia, at least 473 heat-related deaths were reported to a coroner, of which 354 occurred during heatwave conditions, according to a 2022 study reported in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.” [i]

“During severe heatwaves, people in Greater Sydney have experienced as much as a 13% increase in mortality (excess deaths) overall. [ii]

“A separate study found when equal ages are considered, mortality rates are higher again for women by another 15%. [iii]

“Older people are at especially high-risk for heat-related deaths and several independent studies reveal that older women are even more impacted by extreme heat.

“Studies at Western Sydney hospitals found that even fit, healthy people were more likely to present at emergency departments during heatwaves – due to circumstances such as exercising in the heat.[iv]

“More than half of workers who die of heat stress do so during the first week of starting a new job, according to three recent studies of work-related heat illness. [v]

“Heat is also placing significant strain on household budgets, community services, and essential infrastructure — including energy grids, hospitals and transport networks.” [vi]

Urban Heat Islands

Western Sydney is urbanising rapidly, with an associated increase in hard surfaces and decreasing vegetation cover, both of which make the ‘urban heat island’ effect worse. 

“The urban heat island effect is expected to substantially increase as extreme heat becomes more severe, and heatwaves become more frequent and last longer, largely due to climate change”, said Councillor Calvert.


For further details, go to bit.ly/HeatSmart_WesternSydney


[i] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212420921006324

[ii] https://npesu.unsw.edu.au/publication/emergency-department-visits-ambulance-calls-and-mortality-associated-exceptional-heat

[iii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30293089/

[iv] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/exerciserelated-heat-exhaustion

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6802353/

[vi] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275873861_Heat_stress_causes_substantial_labour_productivity_loss_in_Australia

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