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Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness

Use the information below to help integrate climate considerations into your existing public health practice.

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Program Area: Disaster Preparedness

Public health preparedness planners are working to build disaster resilience in communities across Oregon. With climate change, it’s an uphill battle.

Key messages

  • Oregon’s changing climate conditions are increasing the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, winter storms and floods.
  • Heat Waves
    • Oregon’s summers will, on average, continue to get hotter and drier.
    • Extreme heat events are projected to increase in Oregon.
    • When there are heat waves in Oregon, we see an increase in heat-related emergency department visits.
    • Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet many Oregonians are not familiar with the risks or what they can do to protect themselves.
  • Wildfires
    • Wildfires occur every year in Oregon and are expected to increase in the future.
    • Declining snowpack, lower summer streamflow, lower soil moisture, insect outbreaks and other changes in Oregon’s forests and rangeland are leading to increases in wildfire activity.
    • Smoke creates dangerous air quality conditions, especially for people with existing health conditions.
    • Emergency department visits for respiratory issues have increased in Oregon during wildfire events.
  • Winter Storms and Floods
    • Oregon is expected to experience more extreme weather events, including winter storms and floods.
    • Although Oregon’s average annual precipitation is not projected to change, we will likely see rain and snow fall in heavier, more extreme events.
    • Winter storms and floods can increase the risk of serious injuries and create damage to homes and community infrastructure that have long-term effects on health and quality of life.
  • Communities hit first and worst by extreme weather events are often the communities with the fewest resources to cope, recover and adapt.

What can public health practitioners do?

  • When extreme weather events occur, talk about the likelihood of these events occurring more often so partners and community members can be better informed and prepared.
  • After extreme weather events occur, debrief with partners to update protocols, adapt practices, and identify any policies that need to be changed in order to improve the collective response next time.
  • Pilot new methods of community engagement and build new community partnerships with organizations serving communities on the "front lines."
    • Serve as a voice for health equity within inter-agency meetings (emergency management, hazard mitigation planning, etc.) and invite new community partners to the table.
    • Offer stipends/honorariums to compensate new partners who have limited capacity to engage in planning efforts.
    • Ensure that community meetings are scheduled at accessible times and offer meals, childcare, or other supports that enable diverse community members to attend and participate.
    • Prioritize strategies that achieve shared goals, such as planning multi-purpose events.