Heat Health Early Warning Systems

Heat Health Early Warning Systems
ENTRY DATE: 28 April 2015| LAST UPDATE: 28 April 2015
Categories: Disaster Prevention | Observation systems, information dissemination
Technological Maturity: Ongoing research and pilots 
Technology Owners:
  • Local governments
  • e.g. In India the system has been coordinated by the Natural Resources Defence Council in collaboration with Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Needs Addressed

Reduction of health risks by extreme heat

Adaptation Effects
  • Urban response strategies
  • Empowers individuals, communities, governments and non-government institutions to respond to increased heat
Overview and Features

Heat Health Early Warning Systems provide warning against extreme heat which allows individuals, communities, and local government to take precaution in advance.


A US based study indicated that implementing a heat warning system is highly effective in comparison to the costs of saving affected lives in the event of a heat wave. The cost of USD 210,000 for running a system was much more cost-effective than the estimated USD 468 million for saving 117 lives [Ebi, K.L, 2004]

Energy Source
  • Energy for forecasting equipment
  • Human resources for implementation and  maintenance
Ease of Maintenance

Requires constant update to ensure the most reliable forecasting and dissemination system, including renewal of technological equipment and training and capacity building for involved staff and stakeholders

Technology Performance

Studies in Ahmedabad, India have identified seven days’ lead time as most useful to provide early warning and mount a coordinated public health and inter-agency response (NRDC, 2013)

Considerations (technology transfer criteria, challenges, etc.)
  • Long-term forecasts may be more useful than short-term forecasts for responding to heat waves
  • Requires collaboration and coordination between multiple stakeholder groups
  • Mass media should be involved in information dissemination about the system itself and ongoing warnings
  • Formal communication channels must ensure communication between implementing stakeholders as well as dissemination to citizens, hospitals, etc.
  • International team coordination must address the challenges faced as a result of differing time zones and languages
  • Strong relationships must be formed among the different stakeholder groups involved, and particularly those with access to critical information
  • Should be used in tandem with other heat protection activities, including training children and new mothers on how to keep themselves safe from extreme heat, advancing green buildings, creating additional shaded bus stops, increasing interagency communication, improving hospital protocols for heat-related illness diagnosis and treatment, modifying labour policies, and other strategies.
Co-benefits, Suitability for Developing Countries
  • Reduction of medical costs
  • Critical in developing countries facing increasing incidences of extreme heat, particularly in the urban context
  • Budgetary concerns and political will can present another barrier, and resources must be carefully and appropriately managed and allocated
  • Participatory approaches involving local communities are crucial to effective implementation and response
Information Resources

Knowlton, K. et al. 2014. Development and Implementation of South Asia’s First Heat-Health Action Plan in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11: 3473-3492.

Kristie L. Ebi, Thomas J. Teisberg, Laurence S. Kalkstein, Lawrence Robinson, and Rodney F. Weiher, 2004: Heat Watch/Warning Systems Save Lives: Estimated Costs and Benefits for Philadelphia 1995–98. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 85, 1067–1073.

NRDC, 2013. Indian City Launches First-Ever Heat Wave Preparation and Warning System.  Available at: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130416.asp March 2015]

Toloo, G. FitzGerald, G., Aitken, P., Verrall, K and Tong, S. 2013, Are heat warning systems effective? Environmental Health 12:27