Prepare now for the heatwaves ahead

7 September 2022

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:

  • Drink regularly: even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water is the best option. Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee and sugary or fizzy drinks as they make dehydration worse.
  • Eat little and often: rather than large meals. Try to eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit, which contain water.
  • Stay indoors: in the coolest rooms of your house or in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
  • Take cool showers and splash yourself with cold water several times a day, particularly your face and the back of your neck. A loose cotton damp cloth or scarf on the back of the neck can help you stay cool.
  • Air flow: make sure there is sufficient air circulation, either from an air conditioner or by leaving a secured window or door open.
  • Find the shade: if you must go out, stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of natural fibres. Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30+ to exposed skin. If you will be outside for some time, take plenty of water with you.
  • Look out for your neighbours: if you know someone who might be susceptible to heat stress, stop by and make sure they know what to do to stay cool.
  • Download Red Cross’ free first aid app so you have the key signs and symptoms at your fingertips and can look up what to do.

For more information on how to get prepared for emergencies large and small, visit redcross.org.au/prepare

To register for the Telecross Redi service in South Australia, contact Red Cross on 1800 188 071 or (08) 8100 4510 or SAClientServices@redcross.org.au

This September Australian Red Cross is asking Australian to prepare using the free resources, where they can also download the Red Cross Get Prepared App, and donate to Red Cross’ Disaster Response and Recovery Fund.


For media queries or interview requests, contactmedia@redcross.org.au or 1800 733 44

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