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Mitigating Heat Takes Planning and Action

It starts with the “as built” environment.

As emergency managers we often go right to response when it comes to the hazard that we are confronted with. With a heat emergency we are thinking about cooling centers and neighbors checking on neighbors, worrying about the elderly, etc.

To beat the heat, like with other mitigation steps for other hazards, it requires some forethought and then action. See this article on what one county is doing here in the Pacific Northwest: “King County Developing ‘Extreme Heat Mitigation Strategy.’

Trees create shade. Shade cools things down. Our urban areas can be hot zones and usually the places where our most vulnerable populations live are concrete jungles with few trees, shade or greenery like parks to help cool down those centers of heat.

As a gardener, here are my tree planting tips:

  1. Plant in September and water weekly until the rains return. The roots will develop more over the winter and those trees have a better chance of survival the next year.
  2. Plant a variety of trees so that a future disease outbreak (Dutch Elm, for instance) doesn’t wipe them all out.
  3. Keep watering once a week for two to three years to let the trees get established and create space around them where they can get rainfall that gets to their roots.

Spending all that time and trouble to plant trees and then not taking care of them is a huge waste of money.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.