Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued a special weather statement for the City of Toronto, warning of high daytime temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius or higher forecasted to last until Wednesday when cooler air is expected to arrive. Hot weather is associated with negative health impacts ranging from heat stress to heat stroke and death. While the current special weather statement is not the same as a heat warning, residents are encouraged to take steps to keep cool and stay safe.
The wellbeing of all residents is a priority. Certain segments of the population are more vulnerable to heat-related illness, including seniors, people with pre-existing conditions, low-income and socially-isolated people, and young children. During the summer season, from May 15 to September 30, the City of Toronto activates a hot weather response plan to ensure that residents – especially those particularly vulnerable to the heat – have access to cool spaces.
For the 2022 summer season, the City will once again activate its Heat Relief Network. The Heat Relief Network strategy supports an all-summer response to heat that better helps residents stay safe and maximizes City and community resources. The network is made up of more than 300 cool spaces throughout the city, including libraries, community centres and indoor and outdoor pools/wading pools/splash pads, civic centres, drop-ins, and several private and non-profit organizations, including some shopping malls and YMCA locations. The network also includes shelters and 24-hour respite sites that are available to individuals experiencing homelessness.
During this week’s hot weather, Heat Relief Network locations are open to help residents keep cool. An interactive map is available to help those looking to cool off find a Heat Relief Network location near them: www.toronto.ca/coolspaces. The City’s outdoor pools are not yet open, with most opening for the summer on Thursday, June 30; but indoor pools are available to help people beat the heat.
Prior to 2018, the City activated temporary Cooling Centres during periods of extreme heat. However, this occasional, alert-based response activating a small number of temporary cool spaces was not sufficient to minimize health risks. Due to climate change, Toronto is expected to experience higher summer temperatures, unpredictable weather and more extremely hot days. As a result, in March 2018, the Board of Health recommended a trial of the Heat Relief Network, and in November 2019, City Council directed the continued implementation of the Heat Relief Strategy that would shift to an all-summer approach that better alleviates the effects of the heat.
In 2020 and 2021, the Heat Relief Network could not be activated due to provincial restrictions established to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Accordingly, as an emergency and interim solution to heat relief, the City activated temporary Cooling Centres until the Heat Relief Network could be reactivated.
Throughout the heat season, multiple City divisions, agencies, and partner organizations provide direct services as part of the Heat Relief Strategy, including:
- Outreach to those living outdoors to encourage them to seek heat relief available at shelters, drop-ins, and 24-hour respite sites.
- Educating landlords about their obligations to residents, including communicating locations of air-conditioned space or other cool spaces on the property, accessible to all tenants that can offer relief from uncomfortably hot temperatures.
- Operating additional sites with extended hours of cooling, including community centres, recreation facilities, swimming pools and splash pads.
To avoid duplication, the City does not issue heat alerts separate from those warnings issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada. People are encouraged to download Environment and Climate Change Canada’s WeatherCAN app to stay up-to-date on heat warnings and other special weather statements. Information on WeatherCAN can be found on the federal WeatherCAN webpage: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/weather-general-tools-resources/weathercan.html .
In addition to using the WeatherCAN app, there are a number of things individuals can do to beat the heat and stay safe:
- Drink plenty of cool water, even before you feel thirsty.
- Go to an air-conditioned place.
- Wear loose, light-coloured, breathable clothing.
- Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day.
- Consult with your doctor or pharmacist to learn how your medications could increase your risk to heat.
- Check on at-risk family, friends or neighbours, especially seniors living alone.
More tips to protect yourself are available at www.toronto.ca/keepcool.
Information to help residents prepare for extreme weather and weatherproofing their homes is available at www.toronto.ca/extremeweatherready.
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