Helping people beat the heat

Knowledge mobilization leads to heat registry guide

With summer in full swing, extreme heat is something to which everyone can relate. However, it is not just a seasonal discomfort; high temperatures can also pose a serious health risk to a number of groups, including the elderly, the homeless, those with respiratory or cardiac conditions, and those who live alone.

Supported by SSHRC, York University master’s student Tanya Gulliver interned with Toronto’s Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre in 2007 to better help individuals combat the heat, by creating Canada’s first heat registry. This work led to the creation of Toronto’s heat registry guide, which was released earlier this year by the city’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration.

“I’ve been doing heat activism since 2005 or so, and joined Toronto’s Hot Weather Response Committee in 2006 or 2007,” says Gulliver. “Toronto is a leader in heat response.”

The guide shows community organizations how to create registries of their heat-vulnerable clients, allowing them to contact these individuals during a heat wave, either by telephone or by sending volunteers to their home to check on them. The guide also provides ideas for supplementary programs to help at-risk citizens beat high temperatures and humidity, such as through an air conditioner purchase program for those medically unable to cope with the heat, or a fan-lending program for individuals who cannot afford an air conditioner.

Gulliver’s work has led her to pursue a PhD in environmental studies at York, delving into interdisciplinary research on disaster resiliency and recovery. But her contact with heat isn’t over, as she spends much of her time in subtropical New Orleans, Louisiana, studying the effects of Hurricane Katrina.