Germany experienced particularly long and pronounced heat waves in 2003, 2010 and 2015. Rising temperatures are also causing greater health risks. Heat can be a heavy stress factor and has resulted in an increase of heat-related illnesses and deaths in recent years. There were some 7000 deaths in Germany alone during the 2003 heat wave, in addition to numerous heat-related illnesses tied to dehydration, heat stroke, and cardiovascular diseases.
The BMUB-led Federal/Länder Ad hoc Working Group on adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the health sector (Gesundheitliche Anpassung an die Folgen des Klimawandels -GAK) compiled recommendations for action to help state and local authorities draw up heat action plans to protect human health. They can be considered a master plan for ensuring better protection of the public and their health during long periods of high summertime temperatures. The aim is to improve communication between players, for example in hospitals and kindergartens. The plan includes both short-term and long-term measures such as:
- Coordinated communication of information, tips, recommendations for different segments of the population during hot weather episodes;
- Establishment of neighbourhood help organisations for the active support of vulnerable population groups;
- Installation of building-related cooling measures (shutters, awnings und external blinds);
- Architecture, urban planning and building design adapted to extreme heat.
The recommendations for action by the German Environment Agency were drawn up on behalf of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) in collaboration with many experts from various disciplines.