Number of days over 35 celsius in Melbourne, current and projected to the years 2030 and 2070. Graphic: Victorian Council of Social Service

25 March 2013 (AAP) – Victorians will face greater danger from heatwaves because of climate change and inadequate planning, a new report says.

On the back of Australia's hottest summer on record, and with heatwaves predicted to become more frequent, the state must upgrade its preparation and emergency responses, says the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) report.

The council's Feeling the Heat report says the 2009 Victorian heatwave, linked to an estimated 374 deaths, showed the devastation that extreme heat can have and the strain it places on health and emergency services.

"Heatwaves cause more deaths in Victoria each year than other natural disasters such as bushfires and floods - yet despite the risk, heatwaves are not included in the state's emergency management plans," Acting VCOSS CEO Carolyn Atkins says in the report.

Risk factors for people in a heatwave include age, environment, medical and socio-economic conditions.

State department of health figures indicate Melbourne will see double the number of days with the temperature above 35C over in coming decades.

People over 65 are generally less efficient at regulating their body temperature, while poorer residents are more likely to live in low-quality housing with less shade and cooling available, the report says.

Existing heart, kidney and respiratory disease also make people more vulnerable, with heat stress often exacerbating these issues.

While the state government announced new heatwave policies following the 2008/09 summer, little has been done, the report says.

The report recommends putting heatwaves on the same emergency planning level as bushfires and floods by linking the Statewide Heatwave Plan to emergency management planning. [more]

Dangers from heatwaves set to rise: VCOSS

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