With growing concern over extreme heat and its increasingly dire consequences, the Biden administration is looking to grow the federal government’s role in confronting the heightened threat.
The Homeland Security Department, with its Federal Emergency Management Agency component, is convening an extreme heat summit next week to educate state and local officials on how to reduce the impacts of record heat waves affecting much of the country.
Federal officials will promote resources available to the intergovernmental leaders and FEMA has released first-ever guidance to steer them in the right direction. The advice included designating an extreme heat lead officer, mapping out “heat islands,” planting trees and revising building codes.
City & State coverage of heat in South Florida –
- Miami-Dade gets aggressive about dealing with heat
- Beating the heat – with trees? Miami-Dade starts planting in local park
- More trees, cooler pavements: Miami-Dade tries tackling its extreme heat problem
- Stay cool: Miami-Dade announces ‘heat season’
- While some South Florida communities plant trees, others look to tear them down
President Biden last month announced some new federal actions to address the growing threat of heat, such as worker protections through the Labor Department and new funding streams to support state and local efforts.
Many federal lawmakers, local leaders and community stakeholders, however, have called on the federal government to take more direct action to help localities confronting emergency situations.
A recent review by the Congressional Research Service found the federal government has never issued an emergency declaration due to heat and heat is not named in the allowable conditions for such an action. Generally, FEMA’s regulatory structure restricts actions to those related to physical damage.
DHS said its summit would encourage local officials to take advantage of department resources, such as safety tips and information graphics, as well as various grant programs such as Hazard Mitigation Assistance and Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC).
“There are sensible, constructive measures that communities can take to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
“By sharing information, planning ahead with concrete steps, understanding available federal resources, and working together to help the most vulnerable people in their communities, Americans can prepare, adapt, and respond to these weather-related threats to the health, safety, and security of our communities.”
The new guidance is a product of the DHS Climate Change Action Group, which Mayorkas commissioned in 2021.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said her agency has been “leaning forward” by offering state and local officials assistance through webinars and making funding available.
“We will continue to engage our local, state, tribal and territorial partners to help them prepare for the deadliest climate threat we face—extreme heat,” Criswell said.
To date, FEMA’s funding to state, local and tribal governments has been through mitigation programs like BRIC that focus on reducing threats of future disasters rather than addressing immediate, acute issues.
Biden recently noted agencies across government are taking actions to confront rising heat.
The Forest Service is awarding $1 billion in grants to help cities plant trees, the Housing and Urban Development Department is helping fund more heat-resistant buildings and opening cooling centers, the Interior Department is expanding water storage in western states, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is developing a partnership with universities to improve weather forecasting.
This story was first published on Government Executive.