ClubsNSW and Australian Red Cross today launched a new pilot program to help keep people safe during heatwaves. Heatwaves are Australia’s “silent killer” with more Australians dying as a result of heatwaves than floods, bushfires or cyclones. Most people know the devastating 2009 Victorian fires killed 173 people – what is less widely known is the heatwave before the fires led to 404 deaths.
For many years Red Cross has been working across Australia to increase community awareness around the dangers of heatwaves. Earlier this year the organisation approached Clubs Australia with a plan for a pilot program that would see clubs play a role in saving lives and preventing illness during extreme heat events.
The resulting Defeat the Heat initiative, which will be piloted in Richmond, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga this summer, will give people who are at risk during a heatwave a place to take respite at, with local air-conditioned clubs equipped with water and activities for all ages. The program will also raise community awareness about the dangers of heatwaves.
Richmond Club Group CEO Kimberley Talbot said that that a heatwave haven was important to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of locals.
“When summer days become scorchers, our Club will be open to provide shade, air-conditioning and activities for locals who aren’t coping with the heat,” she said.
“Our community counts on the Club to make a difference in their lives, particularly in times of need, and this initiative is an extension of that.”
Clubs Australia Executive Director Anthony Ball said Richmond Club, Dubbo RSL Memorial Club and Wagga RSL Club would be providing their communities with a haven from the heat.
"As it has been famously put, this is a land of ‘droughts and flooding rains’. That might be why Australians understand the dangers of these natural events. But when it comes to heatwaves, a lot of people simply aren’t aware of the risks, or they underestimate the dangers,” he said.
Diana Bernardi, Manager, Red Cross Emergency Services NSW/ACT said Red Cross was pleased to be partnering with Clubs Australia.
"Heatwaves have killed more people in Australia than any other hazard, including fires and floods. It is vital people are aware of the risks and know what they can do during a heatwave to keep themselves safe and healthy,” she said. “We are looking forward to working with the community and local service providers to help keep people safe during heatwaves.”
"During November, Red Cross will run community workshops, training sessions for club staff, and help the clubs create a local heat management plan for hot spells. Rather than stay at home and swelter, the campaign encourages community members to take heat-related illness seriously and head to a designated cool spot – their local community club."
Heatwaves: Who is most at risk?
- The elderly and very young
- Pregnant women
- People with disabilities or chronic illness
- People who work outdoors
- Those who rely on public transport
If the pilot is a success, the program could be rolled out in other parts of NSW and Australia.