The Bulletin Board

Are EMS calls the newest tool in fighting heat waves?

By: - August 16, 2023 1:44 pm
Looking up at the sun in a partly cloudy sky with a thermometer to the left.

The EMS HeatTracker is intended to drive future decisions about heat mitigation strategies. (Getty Images)

There’s a new way to measure the impact of increasing heat waves: EMS calls for heat-related medical emergencies.

A pair of federal agencies, one focused on the health effects of climate change and the other on highway traffic safety, are behind a new EMS HeatTracker. Launched this month, the dashboard allows users to see how their states and counties compare to national averages in three areas: the rate of heat-related EMS calls, response time, and how often patients are transported to a medical facility for treatment.

The EMS HeatTracker is intended to drive future decisions about heat mitigation strategies, such as planting more trees, and immediate decisions about where and when to open cooling centers and send help during a heat wave. 

“Heat is the most lethal of all types of extreme weather and heat exposure is worsening with increasing global warming,” said Dr. John Balbus, acting director of the federal Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, in a statement. That office collaborated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the tracker. 

“But existing data on heat-related deaths don’t shed light on where people actually fall ill,” Balbus said. “This new dashboard makes it possible to see where the needs are greatest, plan for the future, and save lives.”

New Hampshire is in better shape than some parts of the country. 

In the past 14 days, the state has scored “lower than average” on the national rate of EMS calls, which is 1.2 per 1,000,000 people, according to the tracker. Neighboring states are ranked as “zero to much lower than average.” 

Like most of New England, New Hampshire is below the national average on response time, which is 13 minutes, according to the tracker. When it comes to transporting patients to a medical facility, New Hampshire and Vermont are below the 64.8 percent national average. Maine is near the average, while Massachusetts is above it, according to the tracker. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]