9.3 Building Resilience to Extreme Heat: The National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017: 11:00 AM
Mt. Mitchell/Mt. Roan (Crowne Plaza Tennis and Golf Resort)
Hunter Jones, NOAA, Silver Spring, TX; and J. Trtanj and E. Mecray

Communities across the nation are increasingly facing more extreme heat events, and the latest National Climate Assessment (NCA) finds that extreme heat events will be more frequent, more intense, and longer in duration in the future. As extreme heat is already considered the deadliest national hazard by NOAA’s National Weather Service, and given the many underreported non-lethal effects from heat exhaustion to reduced labor productivity, an effective approach to understanding and reducing the health risks associated with extreme heat is needed. Presently, these communities, and the many different types of decision-makers from public health to urban planning, all manage the problem of extreme heat differently and require different climate information in so doing. The thresholds and parameters for issuing alerts, the level of government at which prevention and response is coordinated, and the resources and capacity to manage the risk may vary from state to state and city to city. At the same time, the character of the exposure to this hazard also varies, and will continue to change in the future. Given this growing problem, and the wide set of approaches to managing it, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) united efforts to develop a system for understanding what is needed in these diverse communities, what is currently being done, and how to promote a consistent and effective approach to managing this risk in the future. This system is the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), which was launched in 2015 and has grown to include decision-makers from many disciplines, local heat-health risk management pilot projects, and many additional agency partners including EPA, FEMA, OSHA, ASPR, NIOSH, and SAMHSA.

NIHHIS is bringing together these agencies, decision-makers, and researchers to characterize the impact of heat on the health of many vulnerable populations including older adults, children, outdoor workers, athletes, and the military. NIHHIS regional pilots in the Southwest, Northeast, and Midwest/Great Lakes are co-developing requirements and climate information to capture and address what may be unique decision-making contexts, but also to propagate good practices and encourage harmonization of approaches wherever possible. With emerging capacity to predict aspects of heat across time scales from days to emerging 3-4 week outlooks, to calls for seasonal and yearly information from the health community, the demand for an integrated suite of climate and weather information is emerging. NIHHIS is poised to provide this information, combined with relevant public health, safety, emergency management, and other information to support well informed decisions that protect vulnerable populations and entire communities.

This presentation will provide an overview of the NIHHIS approach to managing extreme heat, and will include consideration of the key agency research program contributions to NIHHIS. A detailed look at the regional pilots, starting with the Southwestern pilot activities held in El Paso, Las Cruces, and Ciudad Juarez, and continuing to the Northeastern pilot region inclusive of New York and New England, will be provided. Importantly, these regions differ in terms of the character of extreme heat (arid and chronic versus humid and episodic), vulnerability to extreme heat (pervasiveness of air conditioning, demographics), and in terms of short-term and long-term needs for climate information. Special attention will be paid to the many sectors with decision-makers engaged in each region, the decisions they must make to protect vulnerable populations, the timescales for such decisions, and the climate and health information needs to support these decisions.

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