Author:     Published: July 22, 2019 Smartcities Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The mayors of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore andWashington, DC declared heat emergencies as temperatures across the Northeast soared to 100-plus degrees over the weekend. The mayors shared information on public spaces to be used as “relief centers,” and enhanced outreach efforts for the homeless and other vulnerable populations.
  • The excessive heat caused power outages across swaths of Brooklyn and Queens, NY on Sunday, while storms in the Washington, DC metro area left nearly 5,000 residents without power.
  • Heat waves across the U.S. were responsible for six deaths over the weekend, according to CBS News. Four people died in Maryland, one died in Arkansas and one died in Arizona.

Dive Insight:

The heat wave is causing technology failures throughout the East Coast. Thousands of New York residents were left without power for the second weekend in a row, following an outage on July 13 that left 72,000 people in darkness, according to the city’s utility company Consolidated Edison (Con Ed). At the time, Con Ed warned the outages could continue due to the electric grid’s inability to sustain demand in the face of excessive heat.

In fact, 5G functionality was called into question as temperatures climb to unprecedented numbers. Joanna Stern, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, ran tests of 5G signals in the heat, finding the service was not very reliable.

“In Atlanta, where it was 90 degrees the day I visited, I could run only one or two 5G download tests before the phone would overheat and switch to 4G,”she wrote. The 5G failure raises concern about the reliability of innovations like autonomous vehicles and connected infrastructure in the face of rising temperatures.

Getting residents to take heat advisories seriously can be a difficult task. Most city departments turned to social media to engage with residents, as some police departments used humor to add levity to the situation. The Braintree Police Department in Massachusetts requested that anyone considering criminal activity “hold off until Monday” and instead “binge Stranger Things season 3” and “practice karate,” while the New York Police Department joked, “Sunday has been canceled.”

However, rising temperatures are no joking matter. Deaths caused by excessive heat illustrate the dangers urban residents face from climates change. By prioritizing resources like water amenities and free indoor public spaces, city officials can keep residents healthy and potentially save lives.