Rapid response report: study of heatwave impacts on residents and businesses in Western Sydney

M. Tofa, A. Gissing

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

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During January and February 2017 there were three distinct periods of severe or extreme heat that affected eastern Australia. This study explores the impacts of the heatwaves in February 2017 on residents and businesses in Western Sydney, New South Wales (NSW). In this heatwave, the average temperature across NSW was 42.4°C on 10 February and 44.0°C on 11 February. In Parramatta North, the temperature reached 44.5°C, setting a new February peak temperature record, while Penrith reached 46.9°C on 11 February. The Heatwave Service at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) provided forecasts and monitored conditions during this heatwave, and these forecasts were further disseminated by other agencies and organisations, as well as through the media. A telephone survey of 100 residents and 60 businesses in Western Sydney was conducted shortly after the heatwave to better understand the impacts of heatwaves, how heatwave warnings were used by residents and businesses in affected locations, what preparedness or protective actions were taken, and what further information and mediums residents and businesses would like to receive in future events. Key findings include that most residents and businesses consider heatwave to be a high or extreme risk, and that their main concerns were the likely impacts on health and wellbeing of themselves, family members, or employees. The main impacts on residents of the February heat event included personal discomfort, feeling unwell, and concern for electricity costs. The impacts on businesses varied, with some noting minimal effects, and others describing impacts on productivity and turnover, and adjustments to their work to ensure worker safety in extreme heat. The main coping strategies used by both residents and businesses are air-conditioning and fans. Around 70% of residents and 78% of businesses received warning of the heatwave, and this was primarily through traditional media (e.g., TV or radio). Of these, 64% of residents and approximately 50% of businesses took actions to reduce the likely impact of the heat, such as rescheduling activities and providing advice to staff. Suggested ways to support better preparedness and reduce the likelihood or severity of impacts tended to focus on reducing vulnerability through improved home and workplace design and reducing vulnerability due social or economic factors. Specific suggestions from residents included subsidies for installing air-conditioning or solar panels, subsidies for electricity, and ensuring that elderly and low-income residents have affordable ways to keep cool during heatwaves.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Commissioning bodyBureau of Meteorology
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2017

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