S114 Heat Wave Vulnerability and Preparation in Oklahoma City

Sunday, 6 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Lara Lucinda McLellan, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and H. G. Basara and J. W. Blanchard

Handout (646.6 kB)

Background: The highest percentages of human mortalities from weather-related incidents arise from heat waves. The frequency of extreme heat wave occurrences has increased since the end of the 20th century and is expected to continue increasing in severity and duration. In many cities, even those with implemented weather warning plans, certain demographics such as the elderly remain highly vulnerable to heat-related illness. By identifying these particularly vulnerable populations, policy can be enacted in order to reduce mortality rates during extreme heat events.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify public officials' responses to constituent concerns about heat waves and drought, and to assess the preparedness of Oklahoma City public officials in a heat wave and severe drought situation.

Methods: To identify the populations more affected by heat waves, analysis of demographic information was made. Demographic information was then compared to Mesonet data to directly study the correlation between vulnerable populations and heat wave effects. Interviews were conducted with Oklahoma City public officials to determine the elite stance on current heat wave procedures and perceived issues with current protocol.

Results: Populations with lower socioeconomic status are impacted most heavily by heat wave events. There are current heat wave response policies in place, but they do not necessarily address all population groups equally. Discrepancies exist between public offices and local responders in terms of how effectively heat wave procedures are implemented and followed.

Conclusions: Understanding how local responders and public officials implement policies and perceive environmental risks is important for protection of vulnerable populations. Communication should be facilitated between public officials and local responders in order to maintain efficient responses to a heat wave situation.

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