Planner’s primer on extreme heat events and hazard mitigation planning
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The amount of information available on individual hazards can appear overwhelming to a planning organization managing multiple, large-scale projects. While hazard mitigation planning is required by federal law, it is often an elective topic in university planning programs. This paper is intended to serve as an introduction to a specific hazard: extreme heat events. It is important for planners to understand this topic because nearly all United States municipalities face the threat of more frequent, more intense, and longer duration extreme heat events, largely due to human-induced climate change. To draft this paper, I carried out my work in two phases. First, I conducted a literature review to answer the question, “What information about extreme heat events is relevant to planning professionals?” Second, I used the City of Baltimore, Maryland, as a case study for applying this knowledge to identify how their extreme heat event hazard planning documents might be strengthened by the knowledge accumulated in the first phase. My primary findings from the literature review highlight the importance of establishing a definition for extreme heat events, understanding the history of extreme heat events, realizing the amplifying effect of climate change and the urban heat island effect on extreme heat events, and the importance of understanding and identifying socially vulnerable populations and communities.