Last summer, in June, western North America experienced an unprecedented heatwave that killed more than 500 people across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Canada. To prevent this tragedy from repeating itself this year, lawmakers in Oregon are preparing themselves for another scorching summer season.
Last Tuesday, the Oregon State Senate passed a bill that promises emergency air conditioners and other helpful items to be provided for those in need.
“In the summer of 2021, Oregon experienced a record heatwave, the second-worst natural disaster in our state’s recorded history,” said Senator Kayse Jama (D-Portland), chair of the Senate Committee on Housing and Development. “Most people who passed away were seniors, people with disabilities, or people with underlying medical conditions. Senate Bill 1536 will protect more Oregonians by removing barriers to installing lifesaving devices,” he added in a tweet.
In the US, heat waves have become the most life-threatening in terms of extreme weather events. According to The Weather Channel, heatwaves have killed an average of 130 people per year. This number is quite high when compared to the death count of hurricanes (46), tornadoes (70), lightning (48), and flooding (81).
While we struggle with the climate crisis, extreme weather is only expected to get more intense, so it’s imperative that we prepare ourselves ahead of time to minimize deaths and protect our populations.
“Extreme heat is becoming a serious public health crisis in Oregon, particularly for seniors and other vulnerable folks,” explained Senator Deb Patterson (D-Salem), chair of the Senate Committee on Health Care. “We are working to prevent tragedies ahead by taking action on this emergency heat relief bill today. Today’s vote is another example of Oregonians stepping up for each other when it is most needed.”
Included in the bill, which is on its way to the House of Representatives who must discuss it before it can become law, are these measures:
- Limiting restrictions placed on portable cooling units by landlords, homeowners’ associations, and others.
- Ordering the Oregon Health Authority to create a program for providing emergency air conditioners and filters to eligible people.
- Mandating that new residences be built with adequate cooling abilities.
- Creating the Heat Pump Deployment Program to provide grants to buy and install heat pumps.
- Mandating that the Department of Energy fund grants for landlords to build community cooling centers.
- Expanding a Department of Human Services grant to fund the creation of heating and cooling shelters, in addition to clean air shelters.