The Assess Heat Risk Awareness step supports you to understand the current perception of heat risk among community members and stakeholders. An awareness assessment will build qualitative analysis of the risk and potential opportunities based on the perspectives of community members and stakeholders. The outputs from the awareness assessment should be analyzed and compared to the Baseline Heat Risk Assessment’s quantitative and existing programs analysis to identify opportunities for increasing awareness and engaging the community.
This module supports you to center community voices during the assessment phase and creates opportunities to set goals and values that are community driven. It is important for communities to have a baseline level of knowledge of how and where heat has the greatest impacts and how to act to reduce the heat risk, given heat’s extensive social and economic effects. Around the world, knowledge of the health risks of extreme heat is quite low. Given the less visually dramatic qualities of heat compared to hurricanes and floods, the impacts may go unseen. Conducting a heat risk awareness assessment can reveal, for example, how much your stakeholders know about the risks of heat and how to respond during heat waves and inform your planning and preparation moving forward.
You can advance this step in parallel with Identifying Heat-Related Vulnerabilities and Impacts.
How to begin a heat risk awareness assessment process
First, establish the time frame and resources (both technical and financial) available to run the survey. One best practice is to involve researchers and community leaders who are subject matter experts on heat and its impacts.
Decide whether this will be a broad assessment, encompassing all citizens, organizations, and agencies, or if the assessment will be targeted to include specific stakeholders. This will determine the scope and amount of resources necessary to complete the assessment.
Identify key questions that the assessment will include. As with most surveys or focus groups, demographic data is important, such as age, income, and educational level. Questions on heat can include, for example, those relating to heat exposure, severity, and risk or vulnerability perception. It can be helpful to touch upon lifestyle changes or economic impacts (related to livelihoods or business continuity) that occur during heat waves. A focus on access to cooling or places of respite (air-conditioned community centers, green space, water features) can be an additional item to include. Though more data is helpful, be mindful that people being surveyed have limited time and attention to complete such assessments.
Resources on community surveys and heat awareness assessment:
- Sweltering Cities Survey
For an example of a heat risk awareness and impact assessment run by a community-based organization, see the survey conducted by Sweltering Cities in Australia.
- Community Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Study
For an example of how a humanitarian organization began a heat risk awareness process in a middle income country, see this study in Hanoi, Vietnam, by the German Red Cross for measuring community understanding of heat waves.
How to use the outputs of a heat risk awareness assessment
The outputs should be used to inform your planning and implementation processes going forward, and to build support for your activities. The information may reveal new priorities and concerns held by your community or establish the primary issues that need to be addressed. If conducted with stakeholders, these assessments can activate community groups to support heat risk and impact reduction.
Resources on using heat awareness assessment outputs:
- Beating the Heat Guidebook
For examples of how Sydney, Australia, and Hanoi, Vietnam, used their outputs, please see pages 64-67 of Beating the Heat, a guidebook developed by the Cool Coalition, the UN Environment Programme, RMI, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, Mission Innovation and Clean Cooling Collaborative
- Bergrivier Municipality’s Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan
For an example of how a city in South Africa is using the outputs of a biodiversity awareness assessment and integrating them into planning and goal setting, see pages 17-19 of Bergrivier municipality’s local biodiversity strategies and action plan.
Common challenges in effectively completing a heat risk awareness assessment
Common challenges include:
(1) Time involved in the process;
(2) Investment in involving stakeholders; and
To address the cost and time needed to support this process, partnering with a local university for subject matter expertise and student volunteers can be helpful. Also, grants from organizations like the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or other bodies may defray costs.
Resources on acquiring grant funding:
- Clarksville, Indiana Grant Funding
For an example of a US county working with a local university and receiving grant funding, see this news article from the US-based News and Tribune.
You’ve completed Assess Heat Risk Awareness.
Please contact Kurt Shickman, Director of Extreme Heat Initiatives at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, at email@example.com if you have any questions.