Submitted by Melanie Ogle
11 Jun 2024

The Hellenic Red Cross acts ahead of extreme heat in Greece

The Hellenic Red Cross activated its Simplified Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Extreme Heat on 8 June 2024, after the National Observatory of Athens predicted scorching temperatures across Greece this week. The Red Cross team will now carry out a series of anticipatory actions to help people cope with the impacts.

The actions will support around 2,000 people and include the following:

  • Health and care activities, including the distribution of bottled water, isotonic drinks, food and sun cream, to homeless people and other vulnerable groups.
  • Bike-based first aid teams will undertake follow-up wellness checks for homeless people; they will also provide these at markets and through house-to-house visits, targeting elderly people and those with chronic illnesses.
  • Community engagement, which includes collecting feedback on the actions to improve them ahead of future activations. 

In addition, the Hellenic Red Cross will share warnings of the health risks of extreme heat and information about how to cope with the impacts. These activities, which are expected to reach around 10,000 people, will be carried out through TV coverage, social media posts and face-to-face outreach, and made available in multiple languages. Full details of all the planned activities are in the activation report.

The actions will take place in Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki and Patra. They will continue throughout the week, depending on further notifications from the National Observatory of Athens.

Triggering the Simplified EAP 

The Hellenic Red Cross was informed by the National Observatory of Athens of a ‘Warning for heat overload – Danger Level 4’, which forecast very high temperatures for 12 and 13 June 2024. This meant that the trigger threshold in the Simplified EAP for Extreme Heat was reached and, as a result, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) provided 63,900 Swiss francs (71,300 US dollars/66,200 euros) from the Anticipatory Pillar of its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF).

Preparing for an activation

The Simplified EAP for Extreme Heat was approved in October 2023 and since then, the Hellenic Red Cross has been preparing for an activation by training volunteers, pre-positioning stock and developing standard operating procedures. On 10 May 2024, together with the IFRC and the National Observatory of Athens, the Hellenic Red Cross took part in a three-hour simulation exercise. This tested the pre-activation checks and messages, the process for transferring funds once the trigger level was reached, and the information-sharing and coordination required for a successful activation. “The simulation exercise proved to be successful,” said Evgenia (Jenny) Gkogkou, the progamme manager for the Simplified EAP at the Hellenic Red Cross. “It was very important to assess the readiness of the services, the coordination of actions, the clarification of roles, and [evaluate] the functioning of the services.”

This simulation was organized after the National Observatory of Athens predicted a hotter summer season this year. And it proved to be extremely timely, with the trigger levels in the Simplified EAP being activated just a few weeks later. “Early action is planting a seed for tomorrow,” said Ms Ágnes Rajacic, the IFRC project manager at the Europe Regional Office. “We are glad to participate in a simulation that address the needs of vulnerable people in advance of a heat wave in Greece.”

This article was written by Melanie Ogle. National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies that want to test their readiness via a simulation should contact Melanie at the IFRC.

Main photo from the Hellenic Red Cross.