Extreme Heat

Disaster Resilience Heat

What is an Extreme Heat Event?

In the Town of Gawler we expect to experience some hot days during summer, but residents need to be aware that extreme hot weather can have a debilitating impact on health and wellbeing. An extreme heat event (or heatwave) is considered to be three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures. For the Town of Gawler, when an average daily temperature of 32C or above is predicted for three or more consecutive days the SES will issue an Extreme Heat Warning to the public.

The average daily temperature is calculated for each day by adding the forecast maximum and minimum daytime temperatures together and dividing this number by two. For example, a 34C degree maximum daytime temperature and a 28C degree overnight temperature will provide an average of 31C degrees. This formula is applied to the forecast provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for the next three days.

Why Extreme Heat is considered an Emergency

During the 20th century, heatwaves caused more deaths in Australia than any other natural hazard.

Communities in the Town of Gawler could experience an extreme heat event at any time; whilst it is not possible to predict the exact time and duration of an extreme heat event, we can assume they are likely to occur more frequently in summer months (November to May).

In extreme heat, you are more likely to become unwell much faster than normal, when temperatures are hotter than 35°C, your body may not be able to cool you down enough for you to stay healthy. Extreme heat events are a risk for anyone who doesn't take precautions to keep cool, even those who are fit and healthy. However, those most at risk are elderly people, babies and young children, and people with a medical condition or disability.

Extreme heat events affect many other parts of everyday life too. Energy, infrastructure, public transport and agriculture are all impacted. Heatwaves also increase fire risk and can cause issues for heat stressed trees.

What can I do?


The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management. Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.

In the context of Extreme Heat Events:

Individuals should be aware of their own extreme heat risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings. Disaster resilience is based on individuals taking their share of responsibility and the resilience of people and households is significantly increased by active planning and preparation for protecting their own life and property. Resilience also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and many are involved as a volunteer.

An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. Urban heat island mapping can identify areas where the urban heat island effect is occurring (‘hot spots’) and is used to prioritise cooling strategies for these locations.

Government agencies, Local governments and communities include Extreme Heat risk within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities, including consultation within emergency management planning and land use planning.

Knowing where the hot spots are in local communities can help the Town of Gawler understand and plan for the impacts of Extreme Heat days. It also allows Council to plan to reduce these hots spots and create more liveable communities.

  • Maintaining the amount of green space and tree cover in the Council area to provide cooling benefits
  • Green infrastructure such as trees and grass are used alongside or to shade bitumen covered surfaces such as major and minor roads, bikeways and footpaths
  • Council ensures sufficient irrigation is provided to sporting pitches, reserves and other green infrastructure networks where possible
  • Material selection is carefully considered in the design of recreation areas for the young and elderly. For example rubber softfall covering would only be used after consideration is given to how heat absorption can be offset through the use of shade sails
  • Council ensures that planning, development and associated infrastructure has a strong focus on design and build quality for dwelling comfort and liveability

Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education systems available about how to assess risks and reduce exposure and vulnerability to hazards.

Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:

  • Risk assessments to gain an appreciation of extreme heat risk
  • Engaging with the community regarding extreme heat risk
  • Working with communities to plan the management of extreme heat risk
  • Providing emergency information and extreme heat warnings

The Department for Human Services (DHS) has lead responsibility on behalf of the South Australian government in the areas of disability; early intervention to support health, safety and wellbeing of children; youth justice; domestic violence; screening services and disaster recovery. The department also provides a wide range of grants to community organisations and concessions. DHS has lead policy responsibility in relation to women, youth and volunteers. More information can be found on their website

Private Industry and Businesses are able to plan for the risk of disruption, and can ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services.

Businesses can and do play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend. Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster.

State Government will work with industry to support community access to essentials, such as food, fuel and cash, in the event of a widespread blackout. Business can access tools and resources through business.sa.gov.au and the SA Business Hotline (1300 142 820) to help with their emergency and continuity planning.

The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:

Business Continuity Plans – A quick guide to impact analysis and plan development
Plan and Prepare – State Government advice on how to protect your business

For additional information about Earthquakes please visit the following websites:
SA Government - Emergencies and Safety - Extreme Heat 
SA Health - Emergency Management - Extreme Heat


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Things you can do now to prepare for an Extreme Heat event:

Understand your risk
Be aware that people living in urban areas can be at risk from the effects of a prolonged heat wave.

Know the Symptoms

Household Plans

The South Australian Emergency Management Sector encourages every household, business and farm to have a written emergency plan. Information on how to develop a plan can be found here: SA Government - Emergencies and Safety - Prepare for an Emergency

What will you do if the usual ways of getting groceries, petrol or medical supplies are disrupted for several days? Here are some suggestions of things you can do to prepare for an extreme heat event:

  • Listen for early warnings issued by the SES and the Bureau of Meteorology
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes
  • Create a cool area in your house to go to during extreme heat (the area should have a fan or air-conditioning)
  • Service, clean and replace your air-conditioner so that you know it's working before you need it
  • Have curtains with pale linings in rooms that get a lot of sunlight, to help reflect the heat
  • Consider putting shading such as external blinds or shutters on windows in rooms that face west
  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies
  • Identify vulnerable family, friends and neighbours who may be particularly at risk and plan to visit

Register yourself or someone you look after with The Telecross REDi service. To register, phone the Red Cross on 1800 188 071 or 8100 4510, or Email SACLientServices@redcross.org.au

This service supports registered people by regularly calling them during extreme heat events to check on their wellbeing.

The links below will help you further assess your situation and prepare for an Extreme Heat Event
SA.GOV.AU Advice on Electricity, gas and water emergencies and outages
Bureau of Meteorology Heatwave service for Australia
What can I do in hot weather to prevent heatstroke in my pet?

Build to Australia’s Building Codes
While the National Construction Code (NCC) does not have specific provisions for heat stress, the NCC energy efficiency requirements can moderate the impacts of extreme heat within buildings that have been built to contemporary energy efficiency standards, resulting in reduced risk of heat stress for building occupants.

Councils are responsible for ensuring the application of building code provisions. Please make sure you Contact Council if you require assistance from our development, planning and building services. Click here to find out more about what Council can do to help you

Extreme Heat Notifications
Residents in the Town of Gawler could experience an extreme heat event at any time; whilst it is not possible to predict the exact time and duration of an extreme heat event, we can assume they are likely to occur more frequently in summer months (November to May).

Extreme heat notifications are provided by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), who analyse and report on weather within Australia. Forecasts are provided on a 24/7 basis for the purposes of severe weather warnings and to alert governments, emergency services and the general public of upcoming periods of extreme weather. For more information and for all current weather warnings for South Australia visit the Bureau of Meteorology



Everyone is at risk of heat-related illness during hot weather and heatwaves. Some groups of people – such as babies and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people who have chronic health conditions – are more at risk than others.

Follow these simple steps to stay healthy in the heat:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stay cool with a fan or air-conditioner
  • Avoid going out in the hottest part of the day
  • Keep curtains, blinds and windows closed during the day to keep your home cool
  • Cool off with a shower or bath
  • Look out for family, friends and the elderly
  • Check the weather forecast so you know when hot weather is coming
  • If you go outside during the day, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved and light-coloured clothing, a hat, sunglasses and SPF30+ sunscreen.

What do I do during an Extreme Heat Event?

Drink Plenty of Fluids
During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar-these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, alcohol and large amounts of sugar.

Replace Salt and Minerals
Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen
Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids.

Stay Cool Indoors and Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully
Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library-even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

Plan your day around the heat.
Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.

Council's Libraries are available as cool refuges in the heat as well as local shopping centers

Who do I Contact?
To report an emergency or life threatening situation call 000 (triple zero) and ask for Ambulance.

Watch out for and treat heat-related symptoms

If you need medical attention:

Contact your local doctor or;
Phone Health Direct Australia on 1800 022 222 at any time.

Vulnerable people
Monitor those at high risk, although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:

  • Infants and children up to four years of age are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature
  • People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat
  • People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat

Register yourself or someone you look after with The Telecross REDi service. To register, phone the Red Cross on 1800 188 071 or 8100 4510, or Email SACLientServices@redcross.org.au

This service supports registered people by regularly calling them during extreme heat events to check on their wellbeing.

Do Not Leave Children or Pets in Cars
Even in cool temperatures, even with the windows open, cars can heat up to fatal temperatures very quickly.

Industry and businesses

Use a Buddy System
When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.

Adjust to the Environment
Be aware that any sudden change in temperature, such as an early summer heat wave, will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance for heat if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. If you travel to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.

Pace Yourself
If you are not accustomed to working in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Everything you will need to know about managing your pets in an emergency can be found on the RSPCA website

Here are some summer safety tips:

  • Freeze water for pets drinking bowls and refill the bowls more often than usual
  • Provide them shade
  • Exercise your pet in cooler hours of early morning and evening
  • Make sure the ground isn’t too hot for your pets paws
  • Watch out for signs of heatstroke:
    • Excessive Panting
    • Weakness and lethargy
    • Drooling and vomiting
    • Dark red gums
    • Incoordination
    • Rapid heartbeat and seizures



All agencies will work in a swift, compassionate and pragmatic way to help communities through Extreme Heat Events. Communities need to learn to innovate and adapt to extreme events.

For life-threatening situations call Triple Zero (000)

The effect of extreme heat on health may continue for some time after an event. You should:

  • Continue to check on those at risk
  • Keep drinking water regularly, even if you don't feel thirsty
  • Be careful around trees - they often drop limbs when it's hot
  • Avoid parking or setting up campsites under trees with large overhead branches and don't allow children to climb or play under them
  • Open doors and windows to let the house cool down

Heat related illnesses

First aid skills
In the immediate aftermath of an Extreme Heat Event people with first aid skills can become a very important resource for the community.

In the case of a large scale event; State and Local Government resources will be stretched to capacity and support from community members who know first aid will be beneficial for treating many non-life threatening injuries.

Find out more about how you can prepare your First Aid Readiness at the St John website

Vulnerable people
Remember that hospitals, aged care facilities and schools may also be affected by the event and may need the support of the community.

Your own support group of friends, family and neighbours may not be available to you as they could have to manage their own recovery efforts.

Watch out for:

  • Any warnings issued by the SES and the Bureau of Meteorology for further events
  • Disruption caused by loss of electricity
  • Delays on public transport

Non-government organisations and Volunteers
Many NGO’s organise volunteers during the recovery stages of a disaster and Australians often turn to them for support or advice and the dedicated work of these agencies and organisations is critical to helping communities to cope with, and recover from, a disaster. Australian governments will continue to partner with these agencies and organisations to spread the disaster resilience message and to find practical ways to strengthen disaster resilience in the communities they serve.

Continue to follow your own emergency plan and when it's safe:

  • Help others, including neighbours
  • Don't drive unless it's an emergency
  • Make use of the supplies from your emergency kit
  • Start your recovery and clean-up
  • Seek relocation support from friends and family if your house isn't safe to live in

Industry and businesses
If you, your customers or suppliers are affected by the emergency event you should enact your Business Continuity Plan to speed up your recovery.

Certain types of event may cause panic purchasing which could have an adverse effect on area of your business and your ability to re-stock your products through your suppliers. Transport disruptions may also cause delays in supply.

Long Term Recovery
There may be instances where recovery from a disaster can take longer than anticipated. Be prepared!

While no one likes to talk about it, emergencies can cause loss of life. This can have emotional and practical impact to you and those around you. Ensuring you have life insurance and an up to date Will can help to ease the burden on those left behind.

There may also be things that affect you normal daily routine such as:

School and child care closures
Enforced work place closures
Injury or disability caused by the emergency event

The following contacts are always available (not just in an emergency) to help those in need:

For further information on this topic, or if you have any questions, please call our helpful Customer Services team on 8522 9211 or email us at council@gawler.sa.gov.au