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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Health, fire warnings as Canberra swelters

As Canberra sweats through a predicted five days of elevated temperatures, residents are being urged to consider their health and safety this week.

“We’ve had warning from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) that we’ve got a good four to five days of extreme heat. That’s not just daytime temperatures; we’re always concerned about overnight temperatures because there’s no relief,” said Chief Officer, ACT Ambulance, Howard Wren on Monday 14 January.

“We are asking people to be very aware of the need to take care in the extreme heat. In particular, we’re talking about people of extremes of age – the very young and our older citizens. We ask that people keep an eye on their elderly relatives and elderly neighbours.”

Mr Wren also warned of the dangers of leaving children and pets unattended in vehicles: “even for a very, very short period of time, there is an extreme risk.”

According to BOM, temperatures expected to hover in the high 30s and low 40s until Friday (18 January). While hospitals and emergency services are prepared for the heat, the ACT’s Acting Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman has urged Canberrans to think about how they can prevent getting unwell in the heat, to reduce the need to present to hospitals or emergency services.

“In extreme heat, there are three key things we’d like the community to be aware of: the first one is stay hydrated [cool water is best], the second is stay cool, and the third one is to look after those community members who we know are especially vulnerable or at risk,” Dr Coleman said.

“People who are elderly, babies and children under five, pregnant mothers are particularly vulnerable at this time as well, [and] people with a chronic disease. So if you know people in your family and friends who have diabetes, chronic heart disease, problems with their lungs; they are much more vulnerable to the impacts of heat,” Dr Coleman said.

Heat stress can present symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fainting and abdominal cramps. As well as health impacts, Canberrans are urged to be prepared for the risk of bushfires with the fire danger levels set at ‘very high’.

ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS) Chief Joe Murphy said the RFS is well prepared for the threat of fire, with day-to-day monitoring and assessment of threat levels, as well as communication with ACT Policing and ACT Fire and Rescue. He encouraged ACT residents to complete a bushfire survival plan, available from the ESA website.

“You need to sit down with your family, everybody who lives in your house, and complete it now. You’ve got to do this now,” he said.

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