Author(s): Ysabelle Kempe

Without chief heat officers, how can smaller cities respond to extreme heat?

Source(s): Smart Cities Drive
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“Not every community can afford to have a full-time chief heat officer, so what is the structure that works for smaller and medium-sized communities?” said a University of Arizona assistant professor.


But what does effective preparation look like as climate change brings more frequent, intense heat waves? City leaders are still in the early stages of figuring that part out, according to Ladd Keith, assistant professor of planning and sustainable built environments at the University of Arizona.


Smart Cities Dive: What has changed in recent years about how cities are responding to extreme heat?

Ladd Keith:  Particularly in the United States, after the Pacific Northwest heat dome, awareness skyrocketed. A lot of the communities in the temperate, cooler locations in the United States that were kind of holding back and thinking that heat was maybe something of the future that they would have to deal with, a lot of them that I’ve spoken with have said that moment it was a little bit for them, like ‘Oh, no, it can happen to any of us at any time.’


Does every community need a chief heat officer? 

Heat’s the deadliest risk in the United States, right? It kills more people than any other weather-related hazard. If you look at how we manage flood risks, we have tens of thousands of floodplain managers in almost every county that I’d say to do nothing but think about flooding, protecting properties from flooding, determining where future development happens based on flood risk, all of that. 


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