Botkyrka began working on heatwaves risk in 2009 by participating in the Climatools research program of the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). Within this program, Botkyrka held a project that evaluated its vulnerability to heatwaves, including mapping of most vulnerable areas and groups. In particular, the project produced maps showing where thermally sensitive areas are located and provided data on heat sensitivity of people living in these areas. These maps were based on information retrieved from the population registry, the drug registry, the patient registry and the health and care administration user registry. The results emerging from the analysis of these registries showed that a quarter of the population of the municipality of Botkyrka had a high vulnerability to heatwaves. Of the most sensitive and vulnerable individuals, only 7% were properly supported by the health and care administration. Individuals over the age of 80, who took certain medicines or had diseases that increased their sensitivity to heatwave, were considered to be particularly vulnerable to heat. Results of the project were used to develop a guide containing advice for municipalities aiming at reducing mortality during heatwaves.
Based on the sensitivity and vulnerability assessment, the project initiated actions aiming at implementing new measures to increase the awareness and preparedness of the city to better cope with heatwaves in some of the most vulnerable sites, i.e.: elderly homes, retirement homes, nursing homes and preschools. Also kindergartens were included, as high indoor temperatures were detected and playgrounds without the possibility of shadows caused problems during the 2010 heatwave.
A heatwave warning system was already in place at the time of the Climatools programme and has been further improved, with the support of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), based on the vulnerability mapping and assessment. Moreover, the new heatwave warning system has been provided with a clear definition of a heatwave: an event with average temperature of at least 25 degrees Celsius during at least 5 days. In case one of these events occur, the Botkyrka municipality releases information on its website about the heatwave and the measures that must be activated to protect the population. Thanks to the early warning system, information is also directly provided to the staff of the municipality organisations that are more affected by the heatwave, like elderly, retirement and nursing homes, schools and preschools. This information is highly relevant as the staff has direct contact with children, parents, elderly and disabled, some of the groups most vulnerable to climate change.
The information is mainly aimed at heat-sensitive people who do not receive any other help from the community. Persons who are in municipal care structures can be directly reached, but reaching other vulnerable, more isolated persons is a greater challenge, also due to restrictions arising from the Personal Data Protection Act. Sending targeted information to vulnerable people identified by the Climatools project can violate the provision of this act, due to the fact that some of the information about heatwaves vulnerability comes from privacy protected registers. Botkyrka municipality is working to reduce this barrier, also considering to inform people through other means (e.g. local newspaper).
The project part of the Climatools programme also enabled to develop checklists to be followed by the staff of elderly, retirement and nursing homes in case of heatwave warnings. These include ensuring that residents drink more and take extra showers as well as that the blinds are pulled down during the day. Moreover, if necessary, it is possible to provide the residents with additional staff during the heatwave. To ensure long-term efficiency of the set procedures, control of heatwave readiness is part of the regular inspections of elderly, retirement and nursing homes as well as of pre-schools. If new homes or preschools are built in the future, the space needs to be adjusted to better cope with heatwaves. Moreover, future work could explore where cool places are available and how information about these places can best be disseminated in case of heatwaves.
Additional, in order to support cooling efforts and thus increase the indoor thermal comfort, the Department of Local Supply and Real Estate has supported the provision of more air-conditioning each year, providing that it does not increase energy costs. For example, Botkyrka has compensated for the additional energy consumption by installing solar cells on the roofs. In 2019, comfort cooling was installed on the communal properties where offices responsible for health care and support are located. Still in 2019, the housing company Botkyrkabyggen AB, which manages around 11,000 apartments, has installed “cool spots” in every area where its apartments are located. They are venues that are kept cool and open to the residents. They are manned with staff from Botkyrkabyggen AB and open at special hours.