President Joe Biden meets with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on July 2 to discuss a viable response to excessive heat. (Ashleigh Fields/The Washington Informer)
President Joe Biden meets with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on July 2 to discuss a viable response to excessive heat. (Ashleigh Fields/The Washington Informer)

President Joe Biden recently paid a visit to the D.C. Emergency Operations Center where he met with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other leaders to talk about local and national challenges and solutions to curb natural disasters. However, a major focus of the event was addressing the high temperatures and how his administration is working to reduce the rate of heat-induced illnesses. 

“Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. More people die from extreme heat than floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined,” Biden stated Tuesday in his opening remarks citing 100-degree plus weather in D.C. and Arizona before drawing attendees’ attention to Hurricane Beryl, the earliest category 5 hurricane in the country’s history.

The president mentioned that last year over $90 billion was spent on emergency response efforts for weather-related damages across the nation. However, Biden also announced several new initiatives geared towards preventing future occurrences and protecting Americans.

“Extreme weather events drive home a point that I’ve been saying for so long.  Ignoring climate change is deadly and dangerous and irresponsible,” Biden emphasized. “These climate-fueled extreme weather events don’t just affect people’s lives, they also cost money, they hurt the economy, and they have a significant negative psychological effect on people.”

The District is considered an urban heat island due to the form of infrastructure, lack of trees, and excessive car exhaust, in addition to heat-absorbent materials such as asphalt and concrete which are capable of absorbing as much as 95% of the sun’s energy. Thousands of D.C. residents were warned about the adverse effects of rising temperatures expected to impact people throughout the hottest summer.

Alongside Biden, the Department of Labor is finalizing the first-ever federal safety standard for excessive heat in the workplace regulating healthy conditions for workers. FEMA will now factor in the effects of future flooding for any federally funded construction project and $1 million in grants for 650 projects that emphasize nature-based solutions for natural disasters.

At the conclusion of the convening, Bowser said $724,000 of new funds would go towards building shaded bus stops in areas of high heat exposure “right here in D.C.” Currently, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) manages bus shelters through a , similar to a public-private partnership, with the outdoor advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor which limits the District to 788 shelters. 

“Under the current franchise agreement, riders in wealthier, cooler (temperature-wise), less transit-dependent neighborhoods are far more likely to have a bus shelter nearby than those in less wealthy, transit-dependent neighborhoods that experience the worst of the urban heat island effect,” local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Santiago Lakatos wrote in an for Greater Greater Washington. “Someone who rides the N4 bus on Massachusetts Avenue NW in Tenleytown will likely have a bus shelter to wait in, whereas someone who rides the B2 bus on Bladensburg Road NE in Carver-Langston is far less likely to be sheltered from the elements. That is despite the B2 having six times more riders than the N4 and ranking as the fourth highest-ridership bus route in DC.”

He went on to highlight the threat this poses to seniors, the disabled and other vulnerable populations in the District. Lakatos suggested that by adding green roofs and other new provisions, the District could add to the expansive ad revenue generated from the 711 bus shelters which rake in approximately $8.2 million per year. 

New developments will take time to introduce. 

In the meantime, since the start of June, Bowser has been adamant about activating several heat emergencies and advisories in response to growing concerns. She’s urged residents to visit cooling centers as needed and stay hydrated to avert heat-related sickness.

“It is important for residents to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, throbbing headaches, disorientation, chills, delirium, and coma,” read a statement released by Bowser. “Onset of heatstroke can be rapid; a person can go from feeling apparently well to a seriously ill condition within minutes.”

Those interested in discovering more tips for mitigating risks in heat exposure or finding their closest cooling center can visit .

Ashleigh Fields is an award-winning journalist specializing in coverage of lawmakers in the White House and Capitol Hill. Her reporting has earned recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists,...

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