HeatWatch allows users to input personalised information to estimate their individual heat risk, as well as the ability to create individualised profiles for other family members or loved ones.
The app also serves as a platform to deliver low-cost and simple science-based strategies that people can use to keep cool. Depending on conditions, these might include wearing light clothes, using a spray bottle to wet the skin, using fans or even actively turning off fans if conditions are too hot.
“The seven-day forecast function helps people plan their week and make smart decisions. For example, an older person might put off a trip to the grocery store until later in the day when conditions are less extreme or young adults might delay a kick around at the park,” said Professor Jay.
The app uses environmental open-source weather data to predict heat risk according to location – noting that suburbs throughout Sydney can experience dramatically different conditions on the same day due not just due to temperature but wind speed, relative humidity, and solar radiation. This was recently seen on Saturday, 9 December 2023 when comparing conditions in Penrith to those in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
App developer and senior researcher Dr Federico Tartarini from the University’s Heat and Health Research Incubator and theme lead of Landscapes and the Built Environment said the app is free to use via mobile phone, tablet or desktop and the team were eager to reach as many people as possible in the community during the trial period over the 2023 – 24 summer.
“While our application is free to use, some of the most vulnerable groups such as people experiencing homelessness or elderly people may not be able to access it on a smartphone. So, we are also working with our partners to have HeatWatch on public displays in community centres, libraries and police stations.”
HeatWatch was supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF) and co-designed by project partners from NSW Health, South-Western Sydney Local Health District, Sweltering Cities, Sydney Environment Institute, Western Sydney Community Forum, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and Sydney Alliance.
Following the pilot period, which will specifically focus on gaining feedback from users in Western Sydney, the team plan to refine the app and advertise nationwide.
HeatWatch is intended for informational use only, it is not intended to provide medical advice or replace professional medical judgment, diagnosis, or treatment. Visit the NSW Health website to learn more about the signs of heat related illness.