Heatwaves in Queensland: Concerns for Your Strata Community

The Sunshine State is no stranger to extreme weather conditions, and one of the most dangerous and often underestimated threats is the heatwave. In recent years, heatwaves have increased in both frequency and intensity, increasing risks for apartment communities. In this article, we’ll explore the dangers of heatwaves, the concerns they pose for Body Corporates, and what apartment communities can do to mitigate these risks.

The Danger of Heatwaves: Heatwaves are more than just a few uncomfortably hot days; they are a significant threat to health and safety. Heatwaves kill far more people than natural disasters like bushfires, cyclones and floods. Adequate preparation is essential, especially for people at high risk: the elderly, babies, young children, people with health and mobility problems.

Here’s why they should be taken seriously:

  1. Health Risks: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.
  2. Increased Energy Consumption: During heatwaves, residents rely heavily on air conditioning, which can lead to skyrocketing energy bills for apartment complexes.
  3. Infrastructure Strain: Overheating can put stress on building systems, such as elevators, Air-conditioning systems, and electrical grids, potentially leading to breakdowns and costly repairs.
  4. Community Wellbeing: Residents may be confined indoors during extreme heat, leading to isolation and decreased community engagement.

Concerns for Body Corporates: Body Corporate’s play a crucial role in maintaining the safety and well-being of their communities. Heatwaves bring several concerns for them:

  1. Health and Safety Compliance: Ensuring that common areas and facilities are safe during heatwaves is essential to avoid liability issues.
  2. Utility Costs: Balancing the need for cooling with cost-effective energy management becomes more challenging during heatwaves.
  3. Insurance: Increasingly frequent extreme weather events may lead to rising insurance premiums for apartment complexes.

Mitigating the Risks: To protect residents and the property during heatwaves, Body Corporates can take several proactive measures:

  1. Heat-Resistant Landscaping: Planting heat-tolerant vegetation and installing shading structures can reduce the urban heat island effect and keep common areas cooler.
  2. Air-conditioning Maintenance: Regular Aircon system maintenance can ensure that cooling systems function efficiently and reliably.
  3. Emergency Response Plans: Develop and communicate emergency plans that outline how the community will respond to heat-related emergencies.
  4. Energy-Efficient Upgrades: Invest in energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and insulation to reduce utility costs.
  5. Heatwave Preparedness: Ensure that residents are aware of the dangers of heatwaves and provide resources emergency contact information.

Heatwaves are an unseen but growing threat to apartment communities in Queensland. Body Corporate management companies have a critical role to play in safeguarding their residents and properties. By taking proactive measures to mitigate the risks posed by heatwaves, apartment communities can remain safe and resilient in the face of this increasingly common and dangerous weather phenomenon.

What to do Before, During and After a Heatwave:

Before and during a heatwave

Stay hydrated

Drink two to three litres of water each day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Dress light

Lighter clothing helps your body stay cool. Light-coloured clothing reflects heat and sunlight.

Check on family, friends, neighbours

Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young. Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day.

If you or those close to you are suffering heat stress, call for help immediately

Symptoms of heat stress include extremely heavy sweating, headache and vomiting, confusion, swollen tongue.

Stay out of the sun

Take shelter. If you need to be out in the sun, wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Sunburn will affect your body’s ability to cope with the heat.

Get your home ready

Draw your curtains, blinds and awnings at the start of the day to keep as much sun out of your home as possible.

Seek air conditioning

If you don’t have air conditioning at home, spend the day somewhere that does, like a library, cinema or shopping centre. If you do have an air conditioner at home, make sure it has been serviced.

Fans will also help you stay cool.

Look after your pets

Make sure your pets have plenty of shade and enough cool water to last the entire day. Putting ice cubes in their bowl will help keep their water cool for longer. Check on them regularly.

Don’t leave children or pets in parked vehicles

Ever. For any period of time.

After a heatwave

You should continue to check on family, friends and neighbours, particularly those most at risk.

It’s also important that you keep drinking water regularly, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Also, be careful around trees — they often drop limbs when it is hot.

Signs of heat stress

Learn the signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke so you can intervene early.

Symptoms include:

  • headache
  • muscle cramps
  • general exhaustion
  • weakness
  • dizzy spells

Emergency services

Agencies work together to issue alerts for heatwaves, so the agency issuing the alerts will vary.

Be on the lookout for alerts related to heat health (generally issued by the chief health officer), extreme heat or about transport disruptions.

Your local doctor, hospital or health professional is a source of advice if in doubt.

All life-threatening situations should be reported by calling triple-0.

For Queenslanders

Planning Ahead

Evidence suggests that the frequency of heatwaves in Australia is increasing.

Sudden peaks in air-conditioning use can create the risk of overloading electricity grids and prompting blackouts, so it’s important to think about how you can stay cool without power.

Some easy ways to stay safe include tuning into heatwave and emergency warnings by listening to radio broadcasts or searching emergency websites.

Simple measures, like rescheduling outdoor activities to cooler parts of the day, closing curtains and blinds and staying indoors are always sensible.

Research has shown that elderly people may be particularly reluctant to use air conditioners, but if your household contains vulnerable people it’s important to use every cooling option available.

It may be possible for some people to use an app or timer to turn on their air conditioners during the afternoon to cool their house, then turn it off after 6:00pm to avoid contributing to peak demand.

If you have friends or family who are elderly, sick or very young, make sure to check in on them. Consider selecting a cooler place, like a shopping centre or library, you can visit during peak temperatures.

Unfortunately, deadly heatwaves are part of Australia’s summer, and it’s likely they will worsen.

Planning ahead can literally be a life saver.

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