People living in Champlain Township and Hawkesbury are being left to find ways to beat the extreme heat on their own.
Due to an ongoing heat wave the Eastern Ontario Health Unit has requested local municipalities make “cooling stations” available to residents living in one of the poorest regions in Canada, and who are without the means to find an escape from the extreme temperatures.
The municipalities, however, say they’re in no condition to offer the service to residents, no matter what the need.
According to the EOHU, a ‘cooling station’ could be an air conditioned local community centre; municipal arena, office or garage; or church, where people could find water and a cool place to regain themselves.
The request was made just days after the EOHU issued a “humidex and smog advisory” for the Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury region.
“While the humidex and smog advisories are in effect, strenuous outdoor activities are not recommended as they may cause respiratory symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath, and there is a considerable risk of heat stroke and sun stroke.”
With the ‘humidex’, temperatures in Eastern Ontario have been climbing past 40C for days, and Environment Canada is warning residents of Eastern Ontario to expect the extreme temperatures to continue like this for at least the next month.
But according to spokespeople from both the office for the mayor of Hawkesbury, and the Emergency Services department for Champlain Township, there are no protocols or procedures in place in case of an ongoing heat emergency.
“It’s [cooling stations] not something we’ve ever done here,” a spokeswoman for Champlain Township said in an interview. “But maybe it’s something we should be looking at.”
A spokesperson for the Hawkesbury branch of the EOHU said the problem lays in the Health Unit having no buildings to provide.
“And there’s no coordination between us and the municipalities, who have the buildings,” she said.
Most Canadian cities have protocols in place for when the temperature soars. Montreal is extending the hours for their pools, splash-pads and libraries, and is considering opening their cooling centres.
Meanwhile both Ottawa and Toronto have recently opened their “cooling centres” for the second time this summer.
After a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon with the municipalities of Eastern Ontario, the EOHU announced progress had been made in finding safe places for the elderly and people without the means to own an air conditioner.
But it won’t happen anytime soon.
“We just don’t have the facilities,” a spokesman for Champlain Township said in an interview, “and Hawkesbury’s in the same shape. We could use the [Vankleek Hill] Arena, but the elevator’s broken and most of the people who need the cooling service, also need an elevator.
“There’s no policy in place right now, there are no protocols for this sort of thing, and it’s something we’ll have to look into. But if [the heat wave] were to continue we’d have to look into providing emergency services.”
The best thing to do during the heat wave, according to the EOHU, is to stay connected.
“Ask for help from a family member, friend, or neighbour if the hot weather is making you feel uncomfortable. Keep in daily contact with your friends and family to let them know how you are feeling and, stay connected with other people who have a more difficult time coping with hot weather in your community and help them keep cool.”
Interviews: Champlain Township; Hawkesbury Mayor’s office; EOHU Hawkesbury; EOHU Cornwall