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State lawmakers propose heat wave alert system

Early warning system would be first in the nation

Assembly Bill 2238 proposes the creation and implementation of a statewide extreme heat ranking system. Photo by Anuragrana18 obtained via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

In another sign of climate change concerns, two California legislators have introduced a bill that would create a statewide advance warning and ranking system of extreme heat waves to help residents prepare ahead of time.

Assembly Bill 2238 directs the California Environmental Protection Agency to work with the California Department of Insurance and the Governor's Office of Planning and Research to create and implement a statewide extreme heat ranking system. The ranking would include the projected health impact and meteorological data, such as maximum and minimum temperatures, and how long a heat wave is expected to persist, the California Department of Insurance said in a news release.

The bill was introduced on Wednesday, Feb. 16, by state Assembly members Luz Rivas, D-San Fernando Valley, and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, in partnership with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. State Sens. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, and Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, are principal co-authors of the legislation.

If enacted, the warning system could help reduce heat-related hospitalizations and deaths and protect vulnerable communities. People with medical issues who are homebound without shade, sufficient insulation, air conditioning, or stable power supplies are the most vulnerable, along with communities of color. The warning system would help mobilize resources in advance.

In 2020, emergency room visits increased by 10 times the normal number during record-breaking heat that rose as high as 121 degrees in Los Angeles County and hit a scorching 108 degrees in Palo Alto. The June 2021 heat wave broke records across the state with inland areas in the east bay as high as 109 degrees.

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High temperatures aren't only happening during the summer. Combined with the current extreme drought, Sunday's temperature reached nearly 90 degrees during the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, and many people weren't prepared to experience high heat in mid-February, the Department of Insurance said.

"Extreme heat waves are the deadliest climate threat that California is facing today. With more heat waves forecast in the years ahead, it is essential to public health and safety that we help Californians prepare, especially our most vulnerable. Giving advance warning and ranking these heat waves help us confront the growing threat of extreme heat with actions that people and communities can take to stay safe and healthy," said Lara, who was a member of the Climate Insurance Working Group.

Rivas, who is chair of the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee, noted that the state's climate has become increasingly erratic and extreme heat has intensified in both severity and occurrence.

An early warning ranking system for heat waves would also help local governments and communities to plan in advance and put in place specific policies to reduce the harshest heat wave impacts.

The bill also directs the Department of Insurance to study the insured and uninsured costs related to past extreme heat waves and identify "insurance gaps" of coverage and promote more effective risk communication and planning.

AB 2238 was first proposed last November at the international climate conference, COP 26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Sue Dremann
 
Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats. Read more >>

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State lawmakers propose heat wave alert system

Early warning system would be first in the nation

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Feb 17, 2022, 11:29 am

In another sign of climate change concerns, two California legislators have introduced a bill that would create a statewide advance warning and ranking system of extreme heat waves to help residents prepare ahead of time.

Assembly Bill 2238 directs the California Environmental Protection Agency to work with the California Department of Insurance and the Governor's Office of Planning and Research to create and implement a statewide extreme heat ranking system. The ranking would include the projected health impact and meteorological data, such as maximum and minimum temperatures, and how long a heat wave is expected to persist, the California Department of Insurance said in a news release.

The bill was introduced on Wednesday, Feb. 16, by state Assembly members Luz Rivas, D-San Fernando Valley, and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, in partnership with Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. State Sens. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, and Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, are principal co-authors of the legislation.

If enacted, the warning system could help reduce heat-related hospitalizations and deaths and protect vulnerable communities. People with medical issues who are homebound without shade, sufficient insulation, air conditioning, or stable power supplies are the most vulnerable, along with communities of color. The warning system would help mobilize resources in advance.

In 2020, emergency room visits increased by 10 times the normal number during record-breaking heat that rose as high as 121 degrees in Los Angeles County and hit a scorching 108 degrees in Palo Alto. The June 2021 heat wave broke records across the state with inland areas in the east bay as high as 109 degrees.

High temperatures aren't only happening during the summer. Combined with the current extreme drought, Sunday's temperature reached nearly 90 degrees during the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, and many people weren't prepared to experience high heat in mid-February, the Department of Insurance said.

"Extreme heat waves are the deadliest climate threat that California is facing today. With more heat waves forecast in the years ahead, it is essential to public health and safety that we help Californians prepare, especially our most vulnerable. Giving advance warning and ranking these heat waves help us confront the growing threat of extreme heat with actions that people and communities can take to stay safe and healthy," said Lara, who was a member of the Climate Insurance Working Group.

Rivas, who is chair of the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee, noted that the state's climate has become increasingly erratic and extreme heat has intensified in both severity and occurrence.

An early warning ranking system for heat waves would also help local governments and communities to plan in advance and put in place specific policies to reduce the harshest heat wave impacts.

The bill also directs the Department of Insurance to study the insured and uninsured costs related to past extreme heat waves and identify "insurance gaps" of coverage and promote more effective risk communication and planning.

AB 2238 was first proposed last November at the international climate conference, COP 26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, in Glasgow, Scotland.

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