What is “Beat the Heat”?
“Beat the Heat” is a two-year program launched by Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The program's central goal is to assist communities in creating tangible, long-term, and sustainable projects that help residents in dealing with an increase in hot days and the negative health impacts that accompany hotter weather. The program is grant-funded and supported by both state and national organizations. The grant funding has allowed Richmond to hire a full-time Heat Relief Coordinator, whose role consists of collaborating with community members and local organizations to lead assessments that promote heat coping strategies and solutions. The Heat Relief Coordinator will create and implement a heat relief strategy with the help of the Heat Relief Task Force, an advisory group of individuals from a wide variety of sectors in the city.
The “Beat the Heat” program comes at a critical time, as annual temperatures across the state of Indiana are rising. With an increase in extreme heat events comes an increase in heat-related illnesses and even death. While heat can be assumed an everyday occurrence as the seasons change, extreme heat is actually the deadliest weather hazard in the United States, causing more harm than hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding each year.
A subset of the “Beat the Heat” program is the Heat Watch Campaign, which is an initiative that maps temperature variants at points of interest around the city. The Heat Watch Campaign is conducted by CAPA Strategies, a Portland-based data analytics firm that strives to provide communities with localized information about urban heat distribution. This data is crucial in determining which populations are at a higher risk of heat stress. Temperatures can vary widely across different parts in the same city, with the potential to have rural areas in a city up to 20 degrees cooler than their urban counterparts. This is known as the “heat island” effect, which occurs when attributes like “sparse vegetation, heat-absorbent asphalt and concrete, and poor air flow” all contribute to the warming of cities and city centers, whereas increased vegetation and less heat absorbent surfaces keep rural areas cool. The “heat island” effect is especially relevant to the City of Richmond because it is heavily surrounded by farmland.