From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Planning for Extreme Heat: NY, Phoenix, California, and Beyond

Boston University organized a talk on how Phoenix, New York, and the State of California are planning for extreme heat the other day.

As NOAA Weather Service reports, "More Americans die from heat every year than from all other extreme weather events combined."

Daphne Lundi, Deputy Director for Social Resiliency of NYC Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, spoke.  Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for the city and thus it has developed a long-term heat resiliency plan as part of their overall sustainability efforts. The city’s approach is "If we're in the 2080s and we're going to have triple the amount of extreme heat days, what are we doing now in terms of our buildings, in terms of our land use policy to get us to a better place decades from now."

NYC has been developing Cool Neighborhoods since 2017 including ideas like

Shading and tree canopies

White rooms or reflective surfaces like "cool roofs"

Cooling centers

Report available at [pdf alert]

They are constantly leading building preparedness and understanding of heat risk so that people know the tools available before a heat wave happens.

NYC also has building energy standards and the Office of Resiliency works on necessary legislation and regulation.  For instance, they are now looking at the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program [LIHEAP] in relation to cooling as well as heating, which is where the bulk of funding goes.

David Hondula, Chief Heat Officer, City of Phoenix; Associate Professor, Arizona State University is in the new Office for Heat Response and Mitigation, started in just the last six months.  Phoenix's first heat response plan passed recently but no long-term cooling plan yet even though they set records for heat associated deaths in the last few years, up 450% since 2014.  65% of "heat associated deaths were among unsheltered" in Phoenix.  An unsheltered person is 200-300% more likely to suffer a heat associated death than a sheltered person.

Karen Smith, Partner at Healthy Community Ventures; former Director, California Department of Public Health provided a larger perspective and addressed how academia can help the public health community gather data during heat emergencies;  advocated more research into prolonged exposure to heat as a health risk, below the threshold of heat emergency, especially for outdoor workers,  and on what actually works in saving lives among the general public.

In most heat events, Karen Smith said, "The major distinguisher of people who died versus people who didn't had nothing to do with their diseases, had nothing to do with whether they had air conditioners or fans, it was social isolation."

It's getting hotter.  We have to learn how to deal with it.

The Environmental Resilience Institute at University of Indiana has a case study of how Chicago, which had a devastating heat emergency in 1995, has worked to reduce the dangers of extreme heat as well as a comparison to what NYC and Minnesota are doing:

The American Planning Association has just published a report entitled Planning for Urban Heat Resilience, available as a free download at


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