From June 30 to July 8, 2018, extreme heat caused 66 deaths on the Island of Montréal, stated Dr. Mylène Drouin, regional director of public health at CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (CCSMTL), at an event to launch the seasonal heat wave watch. Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde, member of the City’s executive committee in charge of ecological transition and resilience, Space for Life and urban agriculture, and Caroline Dusablon, regional coordinator of emergency measures and civil protection at CIUSSS, took this opportunity to outline a broad intervention plan for summer 2019, should extreme heat events occur.
Investigation of deaths due to extreme heat in 2018
The public health department’s investigation showed that the homes of 66% of people who died were located in heat islands. “Low income and social isolation are also important risk factors during heat waves,” added Dr. Drouin, who pointed out that 80% of these people died in their homes. Among those who died, 72% suffered from chronic diseases, 66% were 65 years of age and over, 25% had schizophrenic disorders and 18% suffered from alcohol or drug addiction.
Public health’s recommendations
Heat-related deaths in 2018 declined compared to the numbers observed during the previous extreme heat event in Montréal: 6.4 vs. 9.3 deaths a day per million inhabitants in 2010. Nonetheless, public health recommends targeting people and places at highest risk by adapting an intervention involving municipal and community partners as well as the health network. She also suggests rapidly greening living environments by creating temporary planting zones, for example.
2019 intervention plan
For many years, the City of Montréal, including civil protection, along with public health and the regional emergency measures and civil protection service at CIUSSS and in collaboration with many partners have implemented intervention plans to deal with extreme heat in Montréal.
“In its report, public health is proposing an approach that consists of community-based interventions involving multiple partners, and management of heat islands by increasing vegetation coverage in boroughs. The latter objective is crucial, which is why significant efforts are being made to increase the canopy area index from 20% to 25% by 2025. Trees are considered a green infrastructure of major importance for our city, and is one of the reasons why are we making a major investment of over $16 million in urban forests this year. One thing is certain: we understand that it is urgent to fight climate change,” stated Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde, member of the City’s executive committee in charge of ecological transition and resilience, Space for Life and urban agriculture.
“For its part, CCSMTL’s regional emergency measures and civil protection service is working with all health facilities in the city to enhance measures to protect vulnerable individuals, especially in residential and long-term care centres and private seniors’ residences,” stated Ms. Dusablon. In turn, public health will disseminate prevention messages, monitor population health and keep working to identify solutions to reduce the impacts of heat waves on Montrealers.
Extreme heat events
From June 30 to July 5, 2018, Montréal lived through an extreme heat event during which maximum daily temperatures varied between 31.9 °C and 35.5 °C, and minimum daily temperatures between 20 °C and 24.2 °C. However, even though temperatures cooled after July 5, health effects were observed until July 8. The extreme heat event in 2010 was shorter and less intense: the thermometer reached 34 °C on 1 day only in 2010 versus 3 days in 2018, and nighttime temperatures did not drop below 20 °C for 5 days in 2010 compared to 7 days in 2018.
- Summary and full report of the investigation: santemontreal.qc.ca/rapportschaleur (only in french)
- Plan régional de prévention et de protection en cas de chaleur accablante ou extrême du réseau de la santé 2019 (only in french)
- About extreme heat