Heat Waves - City Resilience Toolkit

As heat waves become increasingly more common, this toolkit helps cites and towns prepare for, and respond to, deadly heat waves.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Prevent loss of life: By establishing early warning systems and response plans, cities and towns can prepare vulnerable residents, businesses, health care workers and emergency responders in advance of heat waves.

Public preparation: local governments can educate residents prepare their own families, houses and businesses, thereby reducing the stress on governmental resources.

Tips & Techniques

Genesis of the guide: In the wake of a deadly 2010 heat  wave in  Ahmedabad, India, the city and a coalition of partners developed the first-ever early warning system and interagency disaster risk reduction plan for extreme heat in South Asia in 2013. The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan increases preparedness and resilience to extreme heat and serves as a model for other heat resilience efforts.

Toolkit Organization: The Toolkit contains 7 steps for building  a heat resilience program: (1) Civic/city engagement; (2) Vulnerability assessment with heat-health threshold temperatures; (3) Developing a Heat Action Plan; (4) Team preparation & coordination; (5) Implementation & monitoring; (6) Evaluating & updating the plan; (7) Strategies for reducing extreme heat & adapting to climate change 

Key strategies for a Heat Action Plan: Strategies include: (1 Communicating the risks of heat waves & prevention practice to reduce heat-related deaths and illnesses; (2) Establishing early warning systems to alert residents of predicted high and extreme temperatures; (3) Coordinating Inter-agency communication; (4) Building capacity among health care professionals to recognize and respond to heat-related illnesses; (5) Reducing heat exposure and promoting adaptive measures by mapping of high-risk areas of the city; (6) Increasing access to potable drinking water & cooling spaces during extreme heat days. The toolkit includes charts & checklists in the Appendix.

Reduce urban heat islands: The city hardscapes (roofs, roads) tend to absorb and retain heat. Reducing heat island is a proactive step  through methods such as (1) City forestation; (2)  Cool roofs; (3) Cool roofs; (4) Green roofs; (5); Land management policies and strategies; (6) Traffic  & congestion policies and strategies; and (7) Creating wind paths.

Examples from other cities: Victoria State Heat Plan - Emergency Management Victoria ((Australia), State of California Contingency Plan for Excessive Heat Emergencies (United States), 

Adapting the toolkit for your city or town: Among the critical success factors: (1) Detailed information regarding previous extreme heat events, including records of daily temperatures and possible health effects of heat; (2) Willing and interested municipal and state government leaders who are active on climate change adaptation and open to new collaborations; (3) Strong public health presence in government (at the city and state level); (4) Strong public health presence in civil society (e.g. schools of public health).

Hot Buttons: Lingering skepticism of climate change & links to heat-related deaths. Coaxing residents from their homes.


City Resilience Toolkit: Responding to Deadly Heat Waves and Preparing for Rising Temperatures, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).  Natural Resources Defense Council,  Indian Institute of Public Health,  University of Washington's Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,  Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Heat Health Preparedness Resource Page, Natural Resources Defense Council .