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Miami-Dade’s Chief Heat Officer looks to make county more heat resilient

MIAIM, Fla. — In Miami there’s a newer role that was made to do just that, the world’s first ever Chief Heat Officer.

This summer, all across Florida, we have been experiencing the heat, and depending on where you live, counties and local governments have been doing what they can to keep their residents cool.

In Miami, there’s a newer role that was made to do just that, the world’s first-ever Chief Heat Officer.

“I think it prepared me incredibly well for what I am doing now,” shared Jane Gilbert.

Gilbert, according to Miami Dade County, is the first-ever Chief Heat Officer.

She was given the position in 2021 by Mayor Danielle Levine-Cava, and the county’s Resilient 305 program after serving as the City of Miami’s first Chief Resilience Officer.

“We were looking at all the climate and urban resilience risks and addressing them for the city, and also in coordination with the county, for the region,” explained Gilbert of her previous role.

It’s work that has prepared her for this new title.

“Our cities across the globe are getting hotter, not just because of climate change but also how we develop a city. Less asphalt, less green space, less trees. Waste heat from our cars or buildings, and all of this makes our cities about 10 degrees hotter than our natural areas,” shared Gilbert.

It’s an issue that particularly affects our low-income communities and unsheltered populations.

On the maps provided by Miami-Dade County the areas in dark brown and dark red are the ones that have the most heat-related illnesses and hospitalizations.

Those areas are home to minority communities, impoverished communities, and rural farmland. A Chief Heat Officers’ job is to try and find solutions.

“Heat is an underappreciated risk. For people who live and work in air conditioning, travel in an air-conditioned car, it is not a big risk, but for those of us who work outside, and can’t make that choice, or can’t afford the increase in utility costs related to cooling,” said Gilbert. “Those are the people we need to be most concerned about.”

So what has this CHO been doing to fix these problems?

The first has been informing, preparing and protecting residents. That involves highlight heat advisories which the National Weather Service has recently lowered the threshold for. It also involves advocating for protections for outdoor workers.

The second part is making sure homes and emergency facilities are efficient and operating. Gilbert said during the months of May to October, about 60 to 70 percent of a homeowners electric bill is related to their air conditioning.

You can see from a county map that the areas in dark purple show zip codes with the most residents applying for low-income energy programs.

But the final element is the one that’s most important, “It’s the long-term strategy of cooling our neighborhoods through investments in tree canopy, particularly in the areas that need it most.”

Gilbert continued, “So we have areas with less than 10% tree canopy, that’s very low. Our goal is to get to 30%.”

The county like other areas in Jacksonville and Tampa, has operating cooling centers which are open 24/7 on the hottest days of the year.

It’s all in an effort to make sure those who visit and live in Miami can enjoy the sunshine, without taking the heat.

https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/miami-dades-chief-heat-officer-looks-to-make-county-residents-more-heat-resilient Miami-Dade’s Chief Heat Officer looks to make county more heat resilient

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