20 November 2020

Council creating refuges to keep elderly people cool in summer

| Hannah Sparks
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Older Australian sitting by the water.

Extreme heat events cause more deaths in Australia than all other natural hazards. Photo: SK.

Bega Valley Shire Council is working on a pilot program to keep its elderly and isolated residents cool during summer.

Environmental management officer Michael Fiedler said the council wants to create safe places for vulnerable community members to escape to during extreme heat days.

“Extreme heat events, including heatwaves, are estimated to cause more deaths in Australia than all other natural hazards combined, and are predicted to increase with the changing climate,” he said.

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“Communities in Bemboka, Quaama and Wyndham have been identified as vulnerable to extreme heat events because of the age of residents, distance to health providers and design of community infrastructure.”

The Cooler Places in a Warmer Climate pilot project is part of Bega Valley Shire Council’s Climate Resilience Strategy and is being funded by the NSW Government’s Increasing Resilience to Climate Change program.

Council is considering creating cool refuges inside community halls at Bemboka, Quaama and Wyndham, and hopes to get feedback from those communities on the design. Solar panels and battery storage would be installed at those halls to ensure they stay cool during a power outage.

Local tradespeople would be hired to install the solar panels and battery storage, which would also help to reduce the halls’ power bills and carbon emissions.

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“We want to create positive change by raising community awareness of the dangers of extreme heat and engaging local communities to help design cool refuges in their halls,” said Mr Fiedler. “Our aim is for these communities to develop an understanding of the role of their local hall during extreme weather and other emergency events.

“Aside from social and health benefits, the project aims to generate positive environmental and economic outcomes.”

Members of the public can complete the Cooler Places in a Warmer Climate online survey here or attend one of the following information sessions, which run from 10 am to 12 pm (registration not required):

  • Bemboka Hall: Thursday, 3 December.
  • Wyndham Hall: Thursday, 10 December.
  • Quaama Hall: Friday, 11 December.

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