Los Angeles City Council members urge new measures to protect residents from extreme heat, citing a recent Los Angeles Times investigation that found the state has failed to adequately tackle the dangers for health from worsening heat waves or to accurately count heat-related deaths.
Municipal Councilor Paul Koretz presented a motion this week, directing the city’s emergency management department, among other actions, to report on the condition and cost of a monitoring system to track “when and where heat-related deaths occur, l ” identifying vulnerable populations in these locations and developing plans to minimize heat-related deaths to nearly zero. “
Koretz said in an interview that his motion was inspired by The Times reporting and made him understand that “people are dying of heat, and we are really not focused on that.” The reason, at least in part, is due to a lack of information on where to focus government resources to reduce the death toll. “We can really now see what’s coming, and we would be foolish not to act to prevent it,” he said.
Extreme heat is one of the deadliest consequences of global warming. But in a state that prides itself on being a climate leader, California chronically underestimates the death toll and has failed to address the growing threat of heat-related illness and death, revealed Times investigation.
“We are reaching temperatures high enough that it will be clear without focusing and without concrete implementation steps, which we are going to be looking for, we will have more and more people dying from the heat,” Koretz said, “and we just can’t afford that as a city.
The motion cites the Times investigation that was released last week. He revealed that California executives had failed to address the growing threat of heat-related illness and death and underestimated the number of heat-related deaths between 2010 and 2019. A Times analysis revealed that the true toll was probably six times greater than the state count.
Experts polled by The Times said an effective heat response would include a monitoring system to track when and where heat-related deaths and injuries occur, but the California Department of Public Health does not collect this. type of real-time data and cannot tell how many people have died in recent heat waves.
“These deaths and illnesses must not remain invisible,” reads Koretz’s motion, which was seconded by board members Mitch O’Farrell and Monica Rodriguez.
Some local governments in California, including LA County, already have surveillance systems in place to track heat-related illnesses. The LA County Department of Public Health monitors a “50% geographically representative sample of hospitals” from which it receives data within days or weeks.
But there is no statewide system to track heat-related deaths and emergency room visits in real time. The state health department does not collect real-time data on heat-related illnesses in hospitals and does not require counties to track and report them, The Times reported last week. .
Koretz’s motion also asks City of Los Angeles staff from different departments for recommendations to improve the city’s heat preparedness – including the use of early warning systems – and to report back with a plan for access any state and federal funding available to help the city prepare for a worsening heat wave.
It also orders the city attorney’s office to report on a potential order that would hold employers accountable for protecting their workers from extreme heat by instituting a mandatory charge of criminal negligence “for any employee death associated with business operations that occurs due to avoidable heat. related deaths.
Koretz said changes in laws and communication with employers are needed “so that those who don’t care are forced to care, and those who care but don’t really know what action they should. take, that we can help provide such advice.
“If people die at work, if they die because they don’t have air conditioning and they are old people, if they die because they have Alzheimer’s disease and they walk out and then get lost… things might be preventable, ”Koretz said.
The motion has been handed over to the energy, climate change, environmental justice and rivers committee, and city council could vote on it as early as November. Koretz’s motion would require city staff to report 30 days after city council approval.
Times editor-in-chief Anna M. Phillips contributed to this story.