HEATWAVE! Plea to open air conditioned offices to the vulnerable
Saving lives following Met Office extreme heat warnings
Companies with air conditioned offices should open themselves up to the old and vulnerable to help them cope with the current heatwave.
With the Met Office extending its extreme weather warning into next week, one Yorkshire-based health and safety company says that such gestures could potentially save lives.
Health and safety software specialists Protecting.co.uk say that under the cost of living crisis, many people won’t be able to keep themselves cool as temperatures rise into the thirties day after day.
“While the elderly are rationing electricity so they can afford to eat, many businesses are using offices that are beautifully air conditioned and cool,” says company spokesperson Anna Edwards.
“The simple gesture of opening up an area for local people to go to take shelter from the extreme weather has obvious benefits.”
Saving lives in the heatwave
With London mayor Sadiq Khan triggering a severe weather warning in the capital, ordering borough councils to make checks on the homeless and vulnerable people, Protecting.co.uk says that local authorities and businesses can go further.
“Think about it – there are air conditioned offices, shops and businesses all over the country. And we can get good odds on many of them having a reception area, break room or conference room that could be opened up to the public,” says Protecting.co.uk’s Anna Edwards.
“And obviously, there is the opportunity of excellent publicity to any business or council who extends this offer,” Edwards says.
With many office workers still working from home after the Covid pandemic, there is sufficient spare office capacity all over the country for this to happen.
Recently published government figures show that 42% of working adults are still working under some sort of hybrid scheme where they work from home more days per week than they do in their places of work.
“That means there is spare and luxuriously air conditioned capacity just about everywhere,” says Protecting.co.uk’s Anna Edward.
“And instead of half empty offices, we could be using this capacity to help vulnerable people.”
It’s a concept that’s already happening in the United States – last year convention centres were opened up on the US West Coast and repurposed as emergency cooling centres in order to protect lives.
Experts agree that millions are at risk of heat-related death because they have no access to basic means of cooling, like water and electricity.
“And with people in the UK being forced to ration their power usage because of the unprecedented rise in energy prices, the only way forward is to help – unconditionally – those most in need.”
How could this work?
Protecting.co.uk’s Anna Edwards says that companies, shop chains, local authorities and other organisations should be able to identify an area on their premises where members of the public can come and go on an ad hoc basis in order to stay out of the extreme heat.
They might, says Edwards, even provide basic refreshments and some modicum of entertainment depending if they want to invest a small budget in a public relations win. The more determined organisations might even lay on transport for the elderly or vulnerable.
And making their plans known through local press and radio stations means that those who are having trouble shielding themselves from the heat will know that there’s somewhere for them to go.
Then there’s the matter of air conditioning itself.
“Air conditioning a building costs the same if it’s fully occupied, half full or empty,” says Anna Edwards. “So we might as well fill these spaces with people who would be grateful for the chance to stay cool and healthy.”
As we experience the undeniable effects of global climate change, we know that the burden of air conditioning in extreme weather only goes to make the extreme weather more extreme.
“But – right here, right now – we may as well put it to good use and save lives,” says Edwards.