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New federal dashboard tracks heat-related health emergencies

U.S. heat-related illness emergency responses in Tennessee
National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS)
U.S. heat-related illness emergency responses in Tennessee

Nearly one in four Tennessee counties is experiencing higher-than-average number of heat-related health emergencies, according to new federal dashboard that maps emergency medical services responses to heat-related illnesses.

Launched last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the searchable EMS HeatTracker is intended to help state and local government officials prioritize heat mitigation strategies, such as parks, trees, cooling centers and outreach to those most at risk during periods of extreme heat.

The interactive dashboard tracks heat deaths, hospitalizations and response times as well as race, gender and other demographic information on those impacted by heat-related emergency illnesses.

Overall, the number of heat-related incidents encountered by first responders in Tennessee during the past 30 days remains about the same as the national average, and the majority of Tennessee counties reported few, or no, heat related emergency calls. But 14 primarily rural Tennessee counties are reporting “much higher” than the national average of EMS calls for heat illnesses, according to the database.

“Heat is the most lethal of all types of extreme weather and heat exposure is worsening with increasing global warming,” said Dr. John Balbus, acting director of the U.S. Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. “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.”

This story was originally published by the Tennessee Lookout.

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.
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