Growing up in San Jose, California, Marta Segura heard horrific stories from her parents about women fainting on the factory line and overheating on a farm. Little did they know that these actions had exposed them to life-threatening situations.
Then, it hit the house.
“My father, himself, once got really sick and almost died,” says Segura, 58, a daughter. Workers And a canary worker. “It resonated with me as a child.”
Segura, who serves as director of the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office at the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, was given a second title this month: Chief Heating Officer, the city’s first. He joined several heat officers from around the world as a city from Athens, Greece Santiago, Chile, Start adjusting a good response to extreme heat and develop sustainable cooling techniques. Phoenix and Miami are the only U.S. cities that have heat officers.
As Los Angeles continues to experience more frequent heat waves, Segura will work across different sections of the city to create an early-warning system for heat waves and help create long-term strategies to reduce heat exposure, such as planting trees and updating building codes. In July, his office will launch a social media campaign in English and Spanish.
Extreme weather can cause cramps, strokes and heat exhaustion. According to a study by the University of Washington, extreme heat contributed to the deaths of about 12,000 people in the United States each year from 2010 to 2020. These figures could rise.
According to researchers at the University of California-San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, low-income, majority-minority neighborhoods feel significantly warmer than rich, white neighborhoods. The study shows that community surface temperatures with high rates of poverty can warm up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit in summer compared to the richest areas.
“Neighbors in South Los Angeles send an additional 20 to 30 people to emergency rooms on hot days, compared to 2 extra people from affluent areas,” said Dr. David Eisenman, director of UCLA’s Center for Public Health and Disaster Management. Eisenman will work with Segura to identify climate-risk communities.
Segura, 58, took her new job as state lawmakers consider extending heat alerts. Assembly Bill 2076 will establish the position of California’s first chief thermal officer and create a statewide extreme-heat and community resilience program. Assembly Bill 2238 will create the country’s first warning system for heat waves, just as existing systems warn of other natural disasters such as fires, tornadoes and hurricanes.
KHN reporter Heidi de Marco met with Segura to discuss her new role in her City Hall office and plans to address the city’s climate risks. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why was this position created?
We have noticed extreme heat events and a fivefold increase in heat waves. There are more heat-related illnesses and more hospitalizations and deaths.
There are two goals. The first is system changes – services and city infrastructure The other is education and awareness – people who know that extreme heat is more serious so they can take steps to protect themselves.
We are tackling education through an extreme heat campaign that will begin on July 1st. As systems and services change, city roofs and streets are being painted white, cool.[ing] Painting, planting more trees for the maximum shade of the risky community.
Q: You will work to reduce heat-related hospital admissions and deaths, as well as work with various agencies in the city to implement a thermal action plan. How will it work?
We are already discussing updating our building codes for decarbonization and climate adaptation.
Another method is through public works. For example, install more shed structures, more kiosks, especially for metro and bus transport furniture. They are setting up more hydration stations.
So when you add it to our public facilities – parks, libraries, youth centers, which are accessible during the day – you have a lot of opportunities to tell people where to go in case of heat storms or heat waves.
Q: How do you plan to address discrimination?
It keeps me awake at night. Addressing the weakest communities is not out of charity. And it’s not for moral reasons. That’s because if we don’t help the most vulnerable communities in Los Angeles, which make up more than 50% of the population, we won’t be able to address our climate.
Landlords are less likely to invest in heat pumps or other air-conditioning systems because it will only increase rents and displace tenants. So we need a policy in the city of LA that prevents displacement and in some ways helps subsidize those low-income housing units or find funding structures that enable homeowners to invest and keep our families healthy and safe.
Q: Are there any special challenges in sending messages to the immigrant community?
I think what I have learned in my family is that we tend to turn on the radio while we work. So it’s going to be important to use radio. It is also important to use text messaging services like WhatsApp.
We want to make sure this information is passed on to employers, so we will probably have to come up with culturally relevant contacts. This is a developing campaign.
Q: What kind of budget are you working on?
We will allocate approximately 30% of our budget to heat-risk prevention, and although our budget is not large, our impact on other partner departments such as the Public Works and Emergency Management Department is significant.
We cannot see my budget in silo as the council has instructed us to work collaboratively to bring together the relevant parts of our budget to prevent heat-risk. However, I can say that the size of my office will be doubled, from four to eight [employees]And it will give us the leverage and resources that we want to create that kind of impact in the city of LA in the long run.
Q: How do you plan to address the homeless community?
What we actually want is more pop-up units, where we have canopy and hydration.
So it’s a conversation I’m having with our homeless and deputy mayor of housing so we can coordinate together. And it’s a good example of something my office can’t do alone because I need their skills and the resources they allocate to ensure I’m providing the best available comprehensive resources for the city.
Q: You are the first Latina to be in such a position in the United States. How do you feel?
This is significant [Latinos] Climate disasters have been suffering disproportionately for a long time, and we have not had such a position in the past. If they see someone in their community, or think they belong to their community, who speak their language, who are culturally related to them, who have had similar experiences, I think it makes a big difference, doesn’t it?
The story was produced by KHN, which publishes the California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. KHN is one of the three main operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), including policy analysis and polling. KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.
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