Interactive maps show B.C. communities' vulnerability to climate hazards like flooding, wildfire smoke

Heat vulnerability map for Kamloops, B.C. (Interior Health)

A B.C. health authority has released a series of maps showing how vulnerable its communities are to climate-related hazards like extreme temperatures, flooding and smoke.

Interior Health shared its recently developed community health and climate change maps Friday. The maps, made in partnership with the University of British Columbia, aim to help governments, local agencies and residents understand climate-sensitive areas and plan their infrastructure or emergency responses in the future.

"As in the rest of the province, Interior Health and the communities we serve in this region are being significantly impacted by climate change," Dr. Sue Pollock, interim chief medical health officer with Interior Health, told CTV News Vancouver.

"They're really meant as another tool in our toolbox for really understanding who is most impacted by climate-related events and to allow focus on vulnerable groups within our communities who will be most impacted."

Each map shows a region's risk to high temperatures, low temperatures, flooding and wildfire smoke. That vulnerability is measured by considering exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.

Some of the factors used to determine a community's sensitivity are the age of the population and their pre-existing health conditions, Interior Health explained, because they impact individual health and physical impacts during extreme events.

Meanwhile, adaptive capacity is determined by several factors like income, social status, education, physical environments and social supports.

Darker shades are used on the maps to indicate a higher risk or vulnerability.

"It's really important to provide information to communities about where they're most vulnerable in terms of these hazards," Pollock said.

Pollock said along with helping communities prepare, the maps can raise awareness of how climate change impacts different people and communities.

"We know some people are more vulnerable to climate change than others," she said.

"All of these hazards, the extreme events, lead to illness and in some cases can lead to death and there are many indirect impacts as well from these hazards."

Interior Health's regional maps can be seen here

Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health's maps, which were updated last year, can be seen here