The Extreme Heat of 2021 Highlights Escalating Public Safety Dangers

During most U.S. summers, hot weather with an occasional heatwave is the norm. This year has been anything but average, with many regions experiencing multiple rounds of extreme heat. Earlier this summer, a heat dome over the Pacific Northwest shattered all-time temperature records in numerous states — and even the ever-warm Phoenix smashed its already impressive record highs. In areas where physical infrastructure is not built to withstand extreme heat, the results have been devastating for people and property. The season provided grim reminders of the impacts with the tragic loss of life, significant structure damage, and disruption to communities.


A rising safety problem

The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2005 — seven of which since 2014 alone. With the rise in extreme heat comes increased safety impacts like wildfires and significant power outages. Nationwide, already-busy offices of emergency management (OEMs) must help protect their communities from these risks. Ideally, through year-round planning and preparation, OEMs can help boost the overall resilience of their cities and towns, reducing the impacts of these dangerous and sometimes deadly events.


The best decision support tools

One of the most readily available but underused resources to help combat these challenges is weather analytics technology. While traditional weather tools like radar and storm tracking help OEMs target responses to site-specific emergencies like tornadoes, larger-scale, longer-term events — such as heatwaves and cold snaps — are best managed with analytics. By integrating these real-time insights into the four key phases of disaster management, OEMs can confidently make planning and response decisions.

Heat-related insights from a skilled weather information partner can help strengthen planning phase decisions. OEMs can establish timely, appropriate responses with real-time, map-based local weather reports, hyper-local data, and expert forecast consultations. Some tools also include the ability to create highly custom weather alerts based on community-specific criteria. The right tool will push alert notifications across stakeholders’ desktop computers and mobile devices — and even integrated siren systems — to ensure everyone has the same information at the same time. This provides greater coordination and control around protocols.

When it comes to extreme heat, Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) observations and forecasts are invaluable resources for monitoring and managing community risk. WBGT measures heat stress in direct sunlight, which differs from the more commonly referenced heat index that measures those same conditions in shady areas. The combination of extreme heat and high humidity can create potentially lethal situations, and WBGT is critical for assessing the effects of prolonged exposure to heat pushing the human body beyond its limits.


With fast diagnosis and treatment, exertional heat stroke has a 100% survival rate.


For natural disasters and severe weather events, accurate weather observations and forecasts are essential for preparedness, and extreme heat conditions are no exception. Understanding how WBGT helps identify heat risks and supports heat stress prevention planning and response protocols is vital. Exertional heat stroke has a 100% survival rate when quickly recognized and treated. When used with a comprehensive response plan for extreme temperatures, WBGT information can mean the difference between life and death.

Accurate weather insights inform effective emergency responses, and an OEM’s entire team needs access to the same information during this phase. For extreme heat events, accurate temperature information and forecasts are crucial to coordinating with schools, hospitals, and shelters to ensure these organizations are prepared with the necessary resources to act on first responders’ direction. In an ideal situation, OEMs will also have access to consultations with skilled meteorologists to help them better understand the overall severity and nuanced timing of extreme temperature events.



Successful disaster management requires not only general preparedness but also accounting for all potential situations. Silent killers — like extreme heat — require complete, comprehensive weather-driven plans. The ability to monitor accurate temperatures and WBGT in real-time and quickly communicate threats to all stakeholders is paramount. Partnering with a weather expert ensures better informed, more confident decisions when lives are on the line.


Additional Resources

Download our white paper to strengthen your understanding of the rise in extreme temperatures, their widespread impacts, and how weather insights can help OEMs enhance readiness, response, and recovery.

Visit with a DTN weather expert about your current plan and learn how our solutions can help improve your community’s resiliency to increasingly volatile weather events.