Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

Department of Health Heatwave Plan 2013

The Department of Health annual Heatwave Plan 2013 has been launched earlier in the week.  

Below you will find a summary of the main levels of alerts. You will also find further information about preparedness for heatwaves http://www.birminghamprepared.gov.uk/advice/specific-risks/heatwave/

The Heatwave Plan

Responsibilities at Level 1: Summer preparedness and longterm planning
Responsibilities at Level 2: Alert and readiness
Responsibilities at Level 3: Heatwave action
Responsibilities at Level 4: Emergency
Monitoring and Surveillance

The Heatwave Plan

A Heat-Health Watch system will operate in England from 1 June to 15 September each year. During this period, the Met Office may forecast heatwaves, as defined by forecasts of day and nighttime temperatures and their duration. See figure 4 for a summary of the heatwave levels.

While Heat-Health Watch is in operation, Public Health England (PHE) will monitor the number of calls people make to NHS Direct and GP consultation rates. Throughout the summer period, syndromic surveillance data will be reported to the Department of Health, to assess how people’s health is affected by the weather and to give some insights into how well services are responding.

The Heat-Health Watch system comprises four main levels outlined in figure 4 and described in further detail below – 1, 2, 3 and 4. It is based on threshold day and nighttime temperatures as defined by the Met Office. These vary from region to region, but the average threshold temperature is 30ºC during the day and 15ºC overnight. Details of individual regional thresholds are given in Annex 1.

Responsibilities at Level 1: Summer preparedness and longterm planning

During the summer months, social and healthcare services need to ensure that awareness and background preparedness are maintained by the measures set out in the Heatwave Plan. Long-term planning includes year-round joint working to reduce the impact of climate change and ensure maximum adaptation to reduce harm from heatwaves. This involves influencing urban planning to keep housing, workplaces, transport systems and the built environment cool and energy efficient.

National level – Summer preparedness

Preparations at this level will be the overall responsibility of the Department of Health, in collaboration with the Met Office, PHE and NHS bodies, including NHS Direct.

The Met Office will develop and publicise the regional threshold temperatures in preparation for Level 2 and will ensure that forecasts are disseminated when there is a 60 per cent chance that thresholds will be exceeded, as appropriate to the Department of Health and via national, regional and local weather forecasts.

PHE, in collaboration with NHS Direct, will refine mechanisms for the surveillance of increased heatrelated illness with the aim of being able to provide daily realtime reports to the Department of Health. These will provide a source of intelligence on how severe the effects are and how well services are responding.

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 Responsibilities at Level 2: Alert and readiness

This is triggered as soon as the Met Office forecasts threshold temperatures for at least two to three days ahead in any one region, or forecasts that there is a 60 per cent chance of temperatures being high enough on at least two consecutive days to have significant effects on health. As most deaths occur in the first two days, this is an important stage at which to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential heatwave.

National and regional level

The Met Office will notify the Department of Health and other organisations with ‘Heat-Health Watch’ responsibility (Strategic Health Authorities, Local Authorities, Primary Care Trusts, NHS Trusts and Social Services departments) immediately when it is forecast that there is a 60 per cent chance that threshold temperatures will be exceeded for any one region. A warning will also be broadcast to the public via television and radio weather reports. This warning will resemble the examples given at Annex 3.

The Department of Health will make advice available to the public and health and social care professionals in affected regions, in preparation for an imminent heatwave, via NHS Direct Online and the Met Office, PHE and Department of Health websites.

PHE will continue to monitor any increases in heat related illness reported in calls to NHS Direct and GP consultations. It will provide daily realtime reports about NHS Direct calls and weekly reports about GP consultations to the Department of Health. These will provide a source of intelligence on both how severe the reported effects are and how well services are responding.

In collaboration with the Met Office and Strategic Health Authority communications leads, the Department of Health will target the media in affected regions with publicity about Met Office warnings and Department of Health advice to the public.

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 Responsibilities at Level 3: Heatwave action

This is triggered as soon as the Met Office confirms that threshold temperatures have been reached in any one region or more. This stage requires specific actions targeted at high-risk groups.

National and regional levels

The Met Office will confirm that the high temperature threshold has been reached for any one region or more. The forecast will include the likely duration of the heatwave, the likely temperatures to be expected and the probability of other regions exceeding their threshold. The Met Office will continue to monitor and forecast temperatures in each region.

The Department of Health will continue to make available advice to the public and health and social care professionals in affected regions (as at Level 2).

PHE will continue to monitor any increases in heat related illness reported in calls to NHS Direct and GP consultations and provide daily realtime reports about NHS Direct calls and weekly reports about GP consultations to the Department of Health. These will provide a source of intelligence on both how severe the reported effects are and how well services are responding.

In collaboration with the Met Office and Strategic Health Authority communications leads, the Department of Health will target the media in affected regions with publicity about Met Office warnings and Department of Health advice to the public.

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 Responsibilities at Level 4: Emergency

This is reached when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside health and social care, such as power or water shortages, and/or where the integrity of health and social care systems is threatened. At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy and not just in high-risk groups.

Level 4 may be declared locally, regionally or nationally, according to established operating doctrines.

In the event of a major incident being declared, all existing emergency policies and procedures will apply.

All Level 3 responsibilities will also continue.

Specific actions at national and regional levels include:

At national level

Level 4 Emergency may be considered under the following conditions: prolonged or severe heatwave, concerns over numbers of deaths, problems arising with schools, transport, water and food supplies and interference with critical national infrastructure and media concerns.

The decision to call a level 4 Heatwave Emergency at National level will follow a cross government assessment of the heatwave. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat (Cabinet Office) will lead on arranging this assessment with all interested departments/agencies and in taking the final decision regarding appropriate emergency level.

Consultation will take place with a range of interested departments/agencies for example the Met Office, PHE, EPD, Policy Lead for CMOs office, Water Companies, Transport, Education, DCLG, Comms lead, Devolved Administrations, and the Defence Forces.

At regional level

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 Monitoring and surveillance

P will further explore improving surveillance of heatrelated deaths, for example, monitoring a sample of mortuaries, coroners and funeral homes during a heatwave period.

Evaluation

An annual review of the Heatwave Plan will take place each autumn/winter.

Information on alert levels

The heatwave alert levels will be triggered by temperature thresholds (see Annex 1) set according to regional variations. Therefore the Met Office website (www.metoffice.gov.uk ) will be the first place where the alert levels will be available. The alert levels will also be subsequently displayed on the Department of Health, PHE and NHS Direct websites.

Information on air quality

Regular updates on levels of particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide are available on Teletext (page 156) and the website www.airquality.co.uk (UK Air Quality Archive), which also offers health advice to those who may be particularly sensitive to air pollution.

Advice to those with respiratory problems is consistent with the advice to all others during a heatwave – to keep windows shaded and closed when outside temperatures are hotter during the daytime to reduce heat (and ozone) entering the home; and opening windows at night or when it is cooler outside, to aid cooling of their home.

Ozone is the main air pollutant that affects respiratory symptoms and has a diurnal variation, peaking during the hottest period of the day and dropping to very low levels at night. Other air pollutants tend to be at lower levels indoors, and therefore the other main advice to those with respiratory problems is to restrict going outside, especially during the hottest period of the day.

Additional information on air quality can be found from:

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