Climate and heat-related emergencies in Chicago, Illinois (2003–2006)
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Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths in the United States than floods, hurricanes and tornados combined. Yet, highly publicized events, such as the 2003 heat wave in Europe which caused in excess of 35,000 deaths, and the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that produced over 500 deaths, draw attention away from the countless thousands who, each year, fall victim to nonfatal health emergencies and illnesses directly attributed to heat. The health impact of heat waves and excessive heat are well known. Cities worldwide are seeking to better understand heat-related illnesses with respect to the specifics of climate, social demographics and spatial distributions. This information can support better preparation for heat-related emergency situations with regards to planning for response capacity and placement of emergency resources and personnel. This study deals specifically with the relationship between climate and heat-related dispatches (HRD, emergency 911 calls) in Chicago, Illinois, between 2003 and 2006. It is part of a larger, more in-depth, study that includes urban morphology and social factors that impact heat-related emergency dispatch calls in Chicago. The highest occurrences of HRD are located in the central business district, but are generally scattered across the city. Though temperature can be a very good predictor of high HRD, heat index is a better indicator. We determined temperature and heat index thresholds for high HRD. We were also able to identify a lag in HRD as well as other situations that triggered higher (or lower) HRD than would typically be generated for the temperature and humidity levels, such as early afternoon rainfall and special events.
KeywordsBiometeorology Heat-related emergencies Heat morbidity Heat waves Urban heat island
This work was partially supported by the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Contract 30-07184-03 CDC/Task Order 0078), the City of Chicago Department of Environment, and the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate and Energy (w ww.ASUsmart.org) at Arizona State University. We would like to thank: Dr. Elizabeth Wentz, for her help in reading the paper and her suggestions for improving the spatial components; Sainan Zhang and Kelly Mahon for their help with geocoding and GIS techniques; and the reviewers for their helpful suggestions for improving this paper.
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