Australian Red Cross is urging people across the country to plan now to care for vulnerable family and friends during summer heatwaves.
Australian Red Cross Emergency Services Operations Coordinator Alana Pedler said hotter summers and increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves meant putting a plan in place now could ultimately save lives.
“Extremely hot weather can cause serious health problems. In fact, more Australians die as a result of heatwaves than because of floods, bushfires or cyclones. Older people, pregnant women, children, those with a disability and people taking medications are among those most at risk,” Ms Pedler said.
Extreme heat has a direct effect on health, and can also cause major disruptions such as electricity cuts, school and workplace closures, and public transport disruptions.
Ms Pedler said all Australians could benefit from the knowledge behind the Telecross REDi program that has operated in South Australia since 2009. “Telecross REDi supports vulnerable and isolated people by regularly calling them during heatwaves and other extreme weather events,” Ms Peder said. The program is set to be piloted in Queensland this summer.
“Already this year we’ve seen large parts of Europe endure record-breaking heatwaves that have tragically led to thousands of deaths. The elderly, isolated and those with medical conditions have been particularly affected. That’s why it is so important to put plans in place now, before our own summer heatwaves begin.”
Ms Pedlar and colleague Eilish Maguire recently travelled to Greece, where they shared Telecross REDi expertise with European colleagues working to help communities battling extreme heat.
“In South Australia, trained Red Cross volunteers call pre-registered clients up to three times a day to check on their well-being. Our volunteers remind people on how to cope with heatwaves, reminding them to drink water regularly, stay indoors, make sure they have sufficient airflow and also how to recognise signs of heatstroke.
“If a call goes unanswered an emergency procedure is activated to ensure their safety and wellbeing. There’s no doubt Telecross REDi has saved lives, and we’re encouraging people in other states to follow the lead by checking on vulnerable members of their own communities,” Ms Pedler said.
Red Cross’ tips for coping with the heat: