GE-R-1 + 2: Heat warning service and Success case study

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents

 

GE-R-1: Heat warning service

The DWD’s Newsletter ‘Heat Warnings’ provides information when for the current and the next day Severe Heat Stress is to be expected, typically with values of 32 to 38°C Perceived Temperature (heat warning stage I) or Extreme Heat Stress of more than 38°C Perceived Temperature (stage II) is to be expected. In the course of previous years, the number of subscribers (residential homes and private individuals) to the newsletter has increased steadily.

The column chart represents the number of subscribers to the heat warning service as of 2008. The number is significantly increasing.
GE-R-1: Heat warning service

The column chart represents the number of subscribers to the heat warning service as of 2008. The number is significantly increasing.

Source: DWD (heat warning service. records of newsletter subscribers amd warnings issued))
 

GE-R-2: Successes of the heat warning system – case study

In the residential homes for the elderly and for people with disabilities e.g. in Hesse, heat warnings trigger preventative measures. While random sample inspection of residential homes on hot days will continue to uncover inadequacies, these were found to be diminishing in the course of the past four years.

Since 2009, the column chart has represented the proportion of facilities inspected in Hesse during hot spells. The figures range from 80 to 340 facilities. The proportion of facilities offering free drinks to employees is increasing significantly. There is no trend in the proportion of facilities with identified deficiencies, but the proportion has been below 18% in all years.
GE-R-2: Successes of the heat warning system – case study

Since 2009, the column chart has represented the proportion of facilities inspected in Hesse during hot spells. The figures range from 80 to 340 facilities. The proportion of facilities offering free drinks to employees is increasing significantly. There is no trend in the proportion of facilities with identified deficiencies, but the proportion has been below 18% in all years.

Source: Hessische Betreuungs- und Pflegeaufsicht (residential home inspections)
 

Early heat warning – prerequisite for effective prevention

Especially in residential homes dedicated to the care of the elderly and people with disabilities, the hot summer of 2003 led to increased hospitalisations of residents as a result of dehydration or to increased mortality rates owing of hyperthermia. In order to enable residential homes and individuals with solitary lifestyles to prepare for heatwaves and to take timely precautionary and protective measures, the DWD introduced a heat warning system in 2005. Customised for individual warning zones which largely follow the outlines of administrative districts, daily heat warnings are issued for both the current and the following day, as soon as the perceived temperature reaches defined threshold values and when other factors such as in-door temperatures and certain heat stresses for the elderly as well as specific thermal situations in urban environments arise.

Heat warnings are issued in various ways, e.g. by internet, by subscription to the Newsletter ‘Hitzewarnungen’ (heat warnings) or, since July 2013, also via smartphone apps. Until the end of 2010, health service centres were informed actively by e-mail, ftp or by fax. In 2011 the DWD converted its system for communications with health service centres with the intention to establish the newsletter as the only communication channel. In the course of 2011, the conversion to newsletter subscription was almost fully completed. Increasingly, also private individuals make use of the newsletter. The number of subscribers has increased continuously in the course of recent years. However, in order to be really effective, heat warnings have to be followed up by concrete actions. This includes the prevention of major physical exertions, drinking enough fluids, ensuring proper electrolyte balance as well as actions to ensure both active and passive cooling of rooms. Residential homes for the care of the elderly and people with disabilities are inhabited by people who are not necessarily able to take such measures unaided. Both, care and nursing staff are called upon to provide active support, i.e. to take appropriate precautionary measures once heat warnings are received.

It has so far not been examined systematically nationwide as to which actions are actually triggered by heat warnings. However, in the state of Hesse, the authority supervising care and nursing services has carried out random sample inspections in residential homes on hot days since 2009. 

The authority checks whether preventative measures are taken appropriately; it also gives advice in case of inadequacies and, where necessary, issues instructions for corrective actions. Since 2009 the inspections have covered approximately 10 to 25% of all residential homes. In years with numerous hot days such as 2010, 2013 and 2015, more extensive inspections are made. Inspections are carried out in accordance with a uniform catalogue of criteria. When residential homes offer their employees soft drinks free of charge on hot days, it can be concluded that they have been sensitised to the detrimental effects of heatwaves. After all, if a residential home enables staff to maintain their efficiency levels, this will ultimately also ensure appropriate care and provision for residents. Regarding the dispensing of free soft drinks to its residents, the residental homes are obliged to supply these on the basis of reasonable demand. In 2017 the dispensing of free soft drinks to employees was taking place in almost 98% of all residential homes. In recent years a distinct improvement has been achieved.

 

Interface

GE-I-1: Heat exposure

GE-I-2: Heat-related mortalities

 

Objectives

Promoting the provision of targeted, matter-of-fact explanations and information to the public, at-riskgroups, multipliers such as staff in the health service and civil protection; better networking between the DWD, the informed agencies at Länder and municipality level, health service institutions, civil protection agencies or institutions such as schools and nurseries, in order to be able to take preventative and topical measures in affected locations (DAS, ch. 3.2.1).