Sweltering temperatures being felt across Manitoba have added a sense of urgency to work on a provincial plan to deal with heat disasters.

A pilot project, started in 2009, is looking at how to cope with extended hot weather, which has proved fatal for some in other regions.


Cooling centres, like this one in downtown Toronto, could soon be seen in Winnipeg and other Manitoba cities as part of a heat disaster plan currently in the works.

The focus is to warn people of the signs of illnesses brought on by extremely hot weather, according to Gerry Delorme, the director of disaster management for Manitoba Health.

The heat alert response system, or HARS, will take it's place among other provincial disaster plans, Delorme said.

"We are going to add it to our flood, flu, fire plan," Delorme said. "Now we have a HARS plan as well. We are going to be working with rural municipalities as well about how to plan for heat events."

Responses to heat disasters under the plan might include setting up cooling stations for the young, seniors and other vulnerable members of the population, Delorme said, adding the plan is based in part on responses to heat disasters in Europe and the United States in recent years.

At the moment, the province handles cold weather much better than extreme heat, Delorme said.

"It's 40 [C] below, we laugh and we do what we need to do and we protect ourselves," Delorme said. "Heat — Manitobans aren't as familiar … the vulnerable in Manitoba and the very young as well don't know how to protect themselves."