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Surrey needs cooling centres for homeless to ‘chill out,’ councillor says

Linda Annis called for designated cooling centres ‘right away’ for homeless people as the mercury keeps climbing
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It’s been no small feat to beat this heat.

Some people are fortunate enough to have air-conditioning units or access to places that do during what has been a record-breaking heat wave, but for those who don’t, there’s more than discomfort in the air.

Constable Sarbjit Sangha said Monday there’s definitely been an uptick in calls for service, particular from people living in RVs and other places where they have little means to cool down.

“The members have been pretty busy,” she said. “We’re educating the public on keeping cool as much as we can, stay indoors but again indoors could be bad if there’s no way of getting cool, no fans, no ACs, then your best bet is probably to hit the mall, where there’s cold air, right.”

Sangha said Surrey Mounties have recently attended a couple of sudden deaths, “but I can’t say if they were heat-related because they are still investigating them.

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis on Monday called on the city to set up designated cooling centres “right away” for homeless people, as the mercury kept climbing.

“Although our air-conditioned city rec centres and libraries will be open as usual today, they’re not set up to specifically help people with nowhere else to go in this heat,” Annis said. “The city needs to move right way to open some of its many facilities and welcome homeless residents who need a place to stay during the hottest hours of the day, from late morning through early evening.

READ ALSO: ‘Extremely extreme:’ High temps push western wildfire risk into uncharted territory

“Right now, we’re not doing anything to offer them drinking water, washroom facilities or just a place to sit down. Pop-up cooling centres in city facilities could be quickly set up to alleviate this.”

“Heat like this is rare and for most of us represents an uncomfortable experience, but for anyone with no place to go, it can be very dangerous,” Annis noted.

“The city needs to open the doors on its facilities right away and offer these very basic services to help our most vulnerable residents get through this heatwave.”

So what exactly is a cooling centre? Annis said it’s anywhere you can get out of the sun, where it’s cool and people can get water or maybe a shower.

“Just a place to chill out,” she said. These would include “pop-up” places, like tents.

Inside these would be spray fans, she said.

“All throughout Surrey,” she said. “I mean, the homeless people are everywhere.

“I think we need to make that concerted effort to go to where they are,” Annis told the Now-Leader. “Make sure that they’re safe, because I’m really fearful right now, being out in this sun day in and day out and not having adequate ways to cool yourself down.”

READ ALSO: Fraser Valley woman arrested after two young children left in vehicle on scorching hot day

Meantime, WorkSafeBC at press time was advising businesses to consider workplace closures during the heat wave to protect employees from heat stress.

“All workers are potentially at risk,” said Al Johnson, head of prevention services at WorkSafeBC. “With the heatwave across B.C., we are warning employers and workers about the risk of developing heat stress. If not recognized and treated early, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

Johnson said in the last three years there have been nearly 100 accepted claims for preventable work-related injuries brought on by heat stress.

He noted that symptoms of heat exhaustion include excess sweating, dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps, and symptoms of heat stroke include cessation of sweating, an increased breathing rate, confusion, seizures and even cardiac arrest.

“If an employer cannot be assured that workers will be protected against heat stress, they should seriously consider shutting down their workplace during this extreme heat,” Johnson said.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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