‘Blinking Code Red’: Deadly Hot Summer Prompts White House Push To Protect Americans From Extreme Heat

In the midst of a record-setting heatwave that claimed hundreds of lives across the United States, Monday's announcement by the Biden administration indicated that it will take immediate action to protect communities and workers from the extreme heat. It launched an interagency multi-prong initiative.

Man takes a photograph of a woman standing next to a thermometer that displays temperatures at Death Valley National Park, California on June 17, 2021. The National Park Service advised tourists to bring extra water and be prepared for extreme heat. AFP via Getty Images

The Key Facts

This plan is designed to reduce heat-related illnesses and protect public health. It focuses on economically disadvantaged populations such as children, seniors, urban centres, workers, and children. The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOLHA) will develop rules to prevent heat illness at work and create an enforcement program on heat-related hazards. This initiative is intended to protect outdoor workers in all industries including construction, agriculture, and delivery, as well those who work indoors in factories, warehouses, and kitchens. The administration also plans to expand the use of public buildings and schools as cooling centers, and to provide cooling assistance for at-risk families. In a statement, President Biden stated that extreme weather, which is being exacerbated by climate changes, has "devastating economic and human toll" and should be considered a "blinking red flag for the nation." According to data from the National Weather Service, extreme heat is America's leading cause of death due to weather-related causes.

Big Number:

$99 billion Biden stated in his statement that extreme weather caused America to suffer a record-breaking $99 trillion in damages in 2013. This year, damages will surpass that figure.

The Key Background

Since Inauguration Day, the Biden Administration has made it a priority to address and combat the catastrophic effects of the global climate crisis. The White House released Monday a fact sheet that noted that the average temperature in the lower 48 states for this summer was 74.0F. This is 2.6F higher than the average and tied it for the warmest ever recorded summer. According to Washington's Department of Health, a devastating heatwave that hit the Pacific Northwest in June set new temperature records and killed at least 112 people. According to the Louisiana Health Department, 12 of the 28 Louisiana deaths caused by Hurricane Ida were due to excessive heat. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 2021 was the hottest ever month on earth.

What to Watch Out For

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report last month stating that global temperatures are likely to exceed 1.5C within the next 20 years unless extreme and immediate action is taken in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, "the sea level will rise for many centuries and millennia because of continued deep ocean warming" and "ice sheet melting."

Important Quote

Biden stated that rising temperatures are a threat to American workers, children in schools without air conditioning and seniors in nursing homes with no cooling, and disadvantaged communities in particular. My Administration will not allow Americans to face this danger alone.


All departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Homeland Security are participating in the whole-of government effort.

Additional Reading:

"Code Red for Humanity": Climate Change is being driven by humans, U.N. Report finds (Forbes).

OSHA and Across Agencies will take new initiatives to improve workplace safety (WhiteHouse.Gov).


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