In Victoria, local governments are responsible for addressing risks associated with heatwave at a community level.
The Mildura Rural City Council is committed to a range of activities that support people in the community who are at a greater risk of suffering heat related illnesses. This includes:
- identifying the most susceptible aged care or home and community care (HACC) clients to contact during periods of extreme heat and providing additional training for HACC workers
- conducting media campaigns to raise awareness of heatwaves and educate the community on how to stay safe on high danger days
These strategies and more are outlined in the Mildura Municipal Emergency Management Heatwave Sub Plan 2019, which aims to minimise the health risks associated with heatwave on the community. The Heatwave Plan forms part of Council Municipal Emergency Management Plan.
As the weather heats up, residents are advised to plan ahead and be prepared for extreme weather. It’s very important that all residents know and understand the symptoms of heat related illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and that you know how to treat them.
Summer and its high temperatures can have a negative effect of the young, the elderly and those with health conditions so it’s important that people plan for how they are going to remain cool.
Anyone can suffer from heat related illnesses but those most susceptible are those people over 65 years of age, particularly those living along and may not have access to air conditioning; babies and young children; people who are overweight or obese; people with existing chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes; and pregnant and nursing mothers.
Play it cool this summer. Drink plenty of water and other fluids but avoid alcohol and sugary drinks as they contain dehydrating effects. Stay indoors, if possible in air conditioning, or in the shade, wear lightweight and loose clothing, reduce physical activity and protect yourself from the sun.
Spend as much time as possible in cool air-conditioned building such as shopping centres. Do not leave children or pets alone in parked cars under any circumstances.
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs. Rest is the best course of treatment.
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that can develop into heat stroke. Symptoms include a pale complexion and sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps and weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting or fainting. Do your best to cool down the person and seek medical help if you think it’s necessary.
Heat stroke can be a life threatening illness. You should call an ambulance to have heat stroke treated immediately. Symptoms may be the same as heat exhaustion, but the skin may appear dry with no sweating and the persons’ mental condition will begin to deteriorate.
Victorian Heat Health Alert System
A heat health alert system has been developed to notify hospitals, health and community service providers, local government and the general public of impending heatwaves. This system operates between November and March each year.
The Department of Health and Human Services monitors the Bureau of Meteorology website for seven-day maximum and minimum temperatures. When the ‘heat health temperature threshold’ is reached, it means that the temperature could impact the health of the community, and a heat health alert will be issued to local government.
For the Mildura area, the heat health threshold is a daily mean temperature of 34 degrees.
For more information on heat stress and heat related illnesses visit www.health.vic.gov.au.