Extreme heat

Climate change means hot days and heatwaves are more intense and happen more often. 

In Western Australia we had our hottest summer on record in 2022 and we know it's going to get hotter in coming years. Unfortunately, we also know that extreme heat is the number one cause of death from environmental causes in Australia.

It is critical to make sure you have easy to read and accessible information about how to keep yourself and your community safe during extreme heat. This kind of information can save lives. 

We’ve put together a summary of important and useful information from many different sources, all here in one place for you to access. We will update this page from time to time, and if there are particular resources or pieces of information you think should be included here, please let us know by emailing admin@climatejusticeunion.org 

Links to resources for further information will be included at the bottom of this page.


Who IS MOST AT RISK DURING extreme heat?

Extreme heat affects everybody, however some people are at much greater risk.

The people generally considered *most* at risk people are aged over 65 years, especially those living alone and with a medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or mental illness. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children are also considered at higher risk of heat related illness or injury.

However, a wide variety of factors also affect how extreme heat impacts people:

  • Whether or not you have a disability or underlying health condition
  • Your ability to move around; especially those who are bed bound or wheelchair reliant
  • How well insulated your home is (or is not).  
  • If you have recently arrived from cooler climates.
  • Alcohol and/or drug use

Some medications may also affect the way the body reacts to heat such as

  • allergy medicines (antihistamines)
  • blood pressure and heart medicines (beta-blockers)
  • seizure medicines (anticonvulsants)
  • water pills (diuretics)
  • antidepressants or antipsychotics

symptoms of heat related illness

 Illness  Symptoms  What to do
HEAT CRAMPS Muscle pains. Spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs.

Stop activity and sit quietly in a cool place.

Drink cool water. Rest a few hours before returning to activity. See a doctor if cramps persist.

HEAT EXHAUSTION Pale complexion and sweating. Rapid heart rate. Muscle cramps, or weakness. Dizziness or headache. Nausea or vomiting. Fainting. Altered mental states. Slurred/non-sensical speech. Confusion.

Go to a cool area and lay down.

Fan continuously. Drink cool water if not vomiting. Remove outer clothing. Wet skin with cool water, or wet clothes.

See a doctor

HEATSTROKE

(a life threatening emergency)

Similar symptoms as heat exhaustion.

Sweating may stop. Mental condition worsens, confusion increases. Seizures and Stroke-like symptoms possible, or collapsing, unconsciousness.

Call an ambulance immediately.

Get the person to a cool area and lay them down. Remove clothing. Wet skin with water, and fan continuously. Always position an unconscious person on their side and clear their airway.

keeping your cool

Some tips to staying safe during extreme heat:

  • Pay attention to the weather. The sooner you know extreme heat is coming, the better prepared you can be to deal with it.

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty (if your doctor normally limits your fluids, check how much to drink during hot weather).

  • Watch or listen to news reports to find out more information during extreme heat.

  • Avoid heavy activity like sports, renovating, vacuuming or gardening.

  • Spend as much time as possible in cool or air conditioned buildings (shopping centres, libraries, cinemas or community centres).

  • Cancel or postpone outings. If you absolutely must go out, stay in the shade and take plenty of water with you (if you start with a half-frozen bottle, it will stay cool longer and you can still top it up later).

  • Keep yourself cool by using wet towels, putting your feet in cool water, spraying yourself with cool water and taking cool (not cold) showers/baths.

  • Place slightly damp towels or thin socks in the freezer to use as a cool pack if you or someone else is overheating.

  • Wear a hat and light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres like cotton and linen.

  • Block out the sun at home during the day by closing curtains and blinds.

  • Open windows when there is a cool breeze.

  • Stay out of the sun during hottest part of the day.

  • Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored.

  • Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads. Do not cook hot food during extreme heat.

  • Unplug any appliances you’re not using, power usage creates heat

What you can do to help others

In times of extreme heat it's really important to make sure we look out for our vulnerable friends, family members and neighbours.

If you know someone who doesn't cope well during the heat, make sure you get in contact with them *before* it gets hot, and stay in touch!  

  • Encourage everyone to drink plenty of water. 

  • Keep in touch with vulnerable or frail friends and family. Call them at least once on any extreme heat day.

  • Offer to help family, friends and neighbours who are aged over 65 or have an illness by doing shopping or other errands so they can avoid the heat. Take them somewhere cool for the day or have them stay the night if they are unable to stay cool in their home. 

  • Do the same applies for pregnant women, or parents with infants and young children.

  • If you observe symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical help as soon as possible.

  • If calling 000 to help someone who you suspect has heat-exhaustion/heat stroke, ask for the ambulance. 

    Don’t ask for the police unless you fear for your personal safety. If the person is disoriented, confused, dazed or distressed, try not to use language that could pose them as a threat to the operator (e.g. crazy, aggressive, belligerent).

    Not everyone is safe with the police. Use your discretion.

Looking after animals and ecosystems

Like humans, animals and plants suffer during extreme heat too. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to help.

  • Water your garden early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is not out. 

  • Spray water over the leaves of trees to help them rehydrate, and to cool down the whole area around and below the tree. This will also provide vital sources of moisture and cooling for birds and insects.

  • Keep pets inside and only take them outside for toileting. If you need to walk your dog, do it after dark. The ground will often be too hot for your pets feet, do not allow them to walk on ground that is too hot. Never leave your pet in the car.

  • Leave water out for local wildlife (in the shade), heatwaves are dangerous for them as well.

Who to call FOR HELP

If it is an emergency, such as when somebody needs an ambulance call 000 immediately.

Other hotline numbers which may be useful during extreme heat events:

Health Direct (Service) - 1800 022 22 - 24/7 health advice

Mental Health Emergency Response Line (Service)  - 1300 555 788 (Metro), 1800 676 822 (Peel), 1800 552 002 (Rural link)

Kids Helpline (Service) - 1800 55 1800 - A 24/7, free, online and phone counselling service for people aged 5-25

1800 RESPECT (quick exit available) - 1800 737 732 - 24/7 phone and online counselling for people seeking help for domestic and family violence, and sexual assault.

Moorditj Yarning (Service) - 1300 364 277 - First Nations Mob Peer Support. Do you feel like having some space to talk about something on your mind? This is what Moorditj Yarning offers – a place and opportunity where you feel comfortable.

QLife Helpline National (Service) - 1800 184 527 - Helpline for people in the LGBTIQA+ community. Available daily from 3pm - midnight (AWST)

Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (Resources Hub) - 02 6363 8444 - Hub for mental health services, financial assistance and advisory services for rural and remote community members.

Sane National (Service) - 1800 187 263 - Peer support service staffed by operators with lived experience of mental health, and a real time 24/7 forum.

People With Disabilities WA (Service & Resource) - 08 9420 7279 or 1800 193 331 - Advocacy, peer support, support with discrimination complaints, NDIS appeals and the Disability Support Pension, and resources for people with disabilites. Office hours: Mon - Fri 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm or can leave a message.

Mensline National (Service) - 1300 789 978 - A 24/7 Counselling services available to men of all ages

Entrypoint Perth (Service) -  6496 0001 or 1800 124 684 - If you are living on the streets or in your car, couch surfing, facing eviction from your accommodation or escaping family and domestic violence, we may be able to help you

Suicide Call Back National (Service) - 1300 659 467 - A 24/7 Counselling Service for those dealing with suicidal thoughts or caring for someone who is. (Ages 15 and up). 


Other useful resources

We promised you a list of resources that you could dig in to for more information. Well, you we go!

This page and the list below is just a starting point. There are a number of other areas of heat management we have not yet provided resources around, such as your rights at work during extreme heat events.

Knowing when a heatwave is coming

First aid for heat related illness

Preparing for heatwaves in advance

Coping with extreme heat during the event

Communicating about extreme weather

Mutual aid advice and resources

Multilingual resources

Other relevant resources 

If you have relevant resources you would like to see listed here please let us know by emailing admin@climatejusticeunion.org


Email:  admin@climatejusticeunion.org
Call: +61422738541 

ABN: 23767498078

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We acknowledge that we begin our work as The Climate Justice Union on the Boodja (land) of the Wadjuk people of the Noongar Nation. We honour the Wadjuk people and their kin in other Nations and Country across these lands and waters, who have always cared for this place and all who lived here.

We acknowledge First Nations Elders past and present, and acknowledge that those of us living here, who came from across the seas, live on land that was taken, stolen. We acknowledge the responsibility that comes with this understanding and that we personally and collectively benefit from this theft.

As such, we all have a responsibility to decolonise ourselves, our lives and work, and to heal the harm these oppressive systems have inflicted.

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We are a community union and do not cover you in your workplace. All Climate Justice Union members are also encouraged to join the relevant industrial union. Click here to find your industrial Union.


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