When meteorologists report that a Category 4 hurricane is on the way, people know it’s dangerous and they need to prepare.
A new bill could make California the first state in the nation to categorize heat waves in a similar way.
The proposed legislation is based on a recommendation from the California Climate Insurance Working Group, which was convened by State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.
“This is personal for me,” Lara says. “I grew up in East Los Angeles with no air conditioning.”
He says extreme heat can be dangerous, especially when people cannot cool off at night.
“We know that a record number of people are hospitalized and actually die because of extreme heat,” he says. “We really need to be more serious about communicating that risk.”
Lara says ranking heat waves would help the public better understand the scale of the danger. And it could prompt specific recommendations.*
“For example, a heat wave warning could urge vulnerable people, like the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses, to decrease physical activity outside,” he says.
Or it could prompt cities to open cooling centers — so people can stay safe, even as global warming brings more extreme heat.
Reporting credit: Molly Matthews Multedo/ChavoBart Digital Media
*This paragraph and the story headline was updated August 16, 2022 to reflect the fact that the legislation proposes ranking heat waves, not naming them.