The National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) – working with the HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) and the DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – has launched an online dashboard – the “EMS HeatTracker”, which shows which U.S. communities suffer the highest rates of heat-related illness and injury that would require response from Emergency Medical Services.
The EMS HeatTracker will be used to help state, regional, and local government officials – including city and regional planners – determine where to prioritize heat mitigation strategies, such as urban trees, parks, and cool roofs. It will also be used to help officials prioritize interventions such as cooling centers and outreach to at-risk populations during periods of extreme heat.
“Heat is the most lethal of all types of extreme weather and heat exposure is worsening with increasing global warming,” said Acting Director of OCCHE, Dr. John Balbus. “But existing data on heat-related deaths don’t shed light on where people actually fall ill. This new dashboard makes it possible to see where the needs are greatest, plan for the future, and save lives.”
The dashboard is created from data submitted by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from around the country that tracks EMS responses to people experiencing heat-related emergencies in pre-hospital settings. It contains an interactive page with a geo-surveillance view and a second page which displays patient characteristics. Several national statistics are included on the dashboard such as: the Average EMS Time to Patient; the Number of Heat-Related EMS Activations; Rate of Heat-Related EMS Activations per 100,000 population; Number of Heat-Related Deaths Among EMS Activations; and Patients Transported to a Medical Facility. The dashboard will be updated weekly to show data on a rolling basis.
Along with state and county-level heat-related EMS activations, the dashboard breaks down patient characteristics by age, race, gender, and urbanity. These data underscore which populations experience heat-related health risks most severely.
“Extreme heat linked to climate change threatens our health and wellbeing, but it does not impact everyone equally. These threats are faced most acutely by communities of color, our youngest and oldest community members, and low-income households across the country. These data will help us prioritize heat mitigation strategies, outreach initiatives, and funding for energy assistance to alleviate heat stress and prevent illness in communities at greatest risk,” said Assistant Secretary for Health of Health and Human Services, Adm. Rachel Levine.
To protect privacy, no personal health information is reflected in the data contributed by States to the National EMS database.
“Heat is no longer a silent killer. From coast-to-coast, communities are battling to keep people cool, safe and alive due to the growing impacts of the climate crisis,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. “President Biden is committed to providing communities with the resources they need to stay safe. The EMS HeatTracker is a powerful tool from the Biden-Harris Administration that brings actionable information to prioritize outreach and interventions, helping prevent heat-related illnesses and death and build resilience across the nation.”