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A senior attending the Seniors Together Program at Burnaby Neighbourhood House receives a thermometer and information sheet on how to stay safe during a heat wave, on July 22.AMY ROMER/The Globe and Mail

As much of British Columbia braces for extreme heat this week, Burnaby Neighbourhood House, a community agency that helps vulnerable residents, is working to prepare local seniors to stay safe during a heat wave.

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Angela Khoo has lived in Burnaby for 30 years. She’s noticed the temperatures rising over the years and worries it will continue. When her one bedroom apartment gets too hot, she visits the air conditioned mall to stay cool. 'I’m very scared of the heat,' she says, on July 22.AMY ROMER/© Amy Romer, 2022

More than 600 people, the majority of them seniors, died during last June’s unprecedented heat dome in the province, at the height of which the temperature in Lytton reached 49.6. One of the people who died was a senior who regularly attended BNH’s programs, said Swapna Antony, the agency’s program co-ordinator.

The agency distributed heat care packages during last year’s extreme weather, but found they weren’t enough to fully protect some seniors from serious health effects of the high temperatures.

“They enter into a false sense of security and don’t necessarily recognize when they’re experiencing heat exhaustion,” Ms. Antony said.

This year, the agency began its emergency response planning back in the spring. It has assembled care packages for seniors that include thermometers, spray bottles, donated fans and information sheets on how to stay safe during a heat wave.

It added an educational component to its weekly seniors and set up additional ways to reach the most vulnerable elderly residents, such as preparing lists of emergency contacts. “So if we’re unable to reach a senior, we have someone else we can call on,” Ms. Antony said.

With help from local health care professionals, the agency also formulated a list of questions for staff and volunteers to use during wellness checks to flag whether a senior may be at risk of suffering from a heat-related health issue.

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Program Coordinator Swapna Antony provides information and hands out thermometers and spray bottles to seniors.

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Seniors sign up to receive a donated fan at Burnaby Neighbourhood House.AMY ROMER/© Amy Romer, 2022

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Ms. Antony loads fans into a cart that she’s bought from the store through donations.AMY ROMER/© Amy Romer, 2022

Senior and volunteer Angela Khoo has lived in her Burnaby apartment for 30 years. She was unable to purchase a fan last year. “They were flying off the shelves and I was too late,” she said.

She was relieved when BNH called her last summer and offered to bring one to her home.

“My apartment is southeast-facing and there aren’t enough windows,” Ms. Khoo said. “I’m very scared of the heat.”

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