New federal dashboard tracks heat-related health emergencies

By: and - September 6, 2023 3:00 pm
a map of heat-related health emergencies in North Carolina by county

U.S. heat-related illness emergency response. Source: National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS)

a list of six heat emergency categories
(Image: NEMSIS)

More than a third of North Carolina’s 100 counties are experiencing a higher-than-average number of heat-related health emergencies, according to new federal dashboard that maps emergency medical services responses to heat-related illnesses.

Launched last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the searchable EMS HeatTracker is intended to help state and local government officials prioritize heat mitigation strategies, such as parks, trees, cooling centers and outreach to those most at risk during periods of extreme heat.

The interactive dashboard tracks heat deaths, hospitalizations and response times as well as race, gender and other demographic information on those impacted by heat-related emergency illnesses.

Overall, the number of heat-related incidents encountered by first responders in North Carolina during the past 30 days was above the national average. And while the majority of North Carolina counties reported few, or no, heat related emergency calls, several in both the state’s central section (including the Triangle) and far southwest, are reporting “much higher” than the national average of EMS calls for heat illnesses, according to the database.

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

North Carolina is in the midst of an extraordinary late summer heat wave. The temperature at RDU airport in Raleigh is expected to hit 100 degrees today — only the third time in recorded history that it has done so in September.

This report was first published by the Tennessee Lookout and adapted to reflect North Carolina data.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita is the senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout, part of the States Newsroom network. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 and gave her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean.

Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.