Met Office and UK Health Agency launch heatwave alert system to warn people of ‘risk to life’ this summer

The colour-coded warnings will alert the public about dangerously high summer temperatures

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

A new alert system launching in England today will issue warnings to the public and NHS when temperatures reach dangerously high levels this summer.

The Heat Health Alerting (HHA) system, run by the UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office, warns that future heatwaves could be “more intense and last longer”.

The colour-coded system comprises green, yellow, amber and red responses which will alert people to the “health impacts” of very high temperatures, with the aim of reducing illness and deaths among the most vulnerable. It will monitor weather forecasts to identify areas where hot spells are most likely, and where the NHS is expected to face the biggest pressures.

A new alert system will warn people when temperatures reach dangerously high levels (Photo: Getty Images)A new alert system will warn people when temperatures reach dangerously high levels (Photo: Getty Images)
A new alert system will warn people when temperatures reach dangerously high levels (Photo: Getty Images)

A green alert indicates normal temperatures with no level of warning as conditions are unlikely to pose a risk to health.

Yellow means that the hot weather is likely to affect vulnerable people, particularly those over the age of 65 and those with an underlying health condition.

An amber alert indicates that weather conditions could affect the wider population and impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service.

Red, which is the highest level of warning, indicates a “significant risk to life”, even among the healthy population and a severe impact across all sectors would be expected. This alert will be treated as an emergency.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at the UK Health Security Agency, said the new system will play a “vital role” in safeguarding public health.

He said: “Last year saw record high temperatures across England and evidence shows that heatwaves are likely to occur more often, be more intense and last longer in the years and decades ahead.

“It is important we are able to quantify the likely impacts of these heatwaves before they arrive to prevent illness and reduce the number of deaths. We look forward to collaborating with the Met Office to provide evidence-based advice to professionals and the public, to ensure they are well-equipped to respond to these events.”

The system will operate all year-round, but the core alerting season will run from 1 June to 30 September. The UKHSA and Met Officer will monitor weather forecasts and when hot temperatures are identified, a joint risk assessment will be carried out and the appropriate level of alert will be issued.

The system will offer regional information and advice to the public and send guidance directly to NHS England, the government and healthcare professionals.

It replaces the Met Office’s Heat-Health Alerts and Cold Weather Alerts system, which stopped operating from 1 June. Anyone who wants to receive the new alerts can do so by signing up online and specifying which region they want to receive alerts for.

Will Lang, head of situational awareness at the Met Office, added: “The effects of human-induced climate change are already being felt on UK summers with an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat events over recent decades and temperatures in excess of 40°C recorded for the first-time last summer.

“The updated health alerts will be complementary to, and run alongside our National Severe Weather Warnings, and will play a pivotal role in helping save lives, protect property and the economy as we all work to tackle adverse weather and climate change going forward. It is only by working in close partnership with organisations like UKHSA that effective action can be taken when it matters.”