The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday initiated steps to prepare the city for worsening heat waves and to develop strategies for minimizing extreme heat-related deaths, including the potential drafting of an ordinance to charge employers with criminal negligence for preventable heat-related deaths of employees.

“Extreme heat days are actively killing people — vulnerable populations, the elderly, the young, the infirm and workers whose employers force them to continue working in dangerous positions as the thermometer reaches record heights,” Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the motion, said before the vote.

“My motion is intended to gather everything we’re doing about extreme heat, highlight where the shortcomings are and warn employers that they’re not only culpable, but liable.”

Koretz’s motion notes an investigation from the Los Angeles Times that found the state undercounts the number of people who die from extreme heat by up to six times, and that California has not sufficiently addressed the worsening threat of heat-related illness and death.

“Now that The Times has done such an excellent job of covering the extreme heat dangers, there’s no excuse for employers to feign ignorance when a worker collapses and there’s no excuse for the city, state and regional governments not to get our acts together,” Koretz said.

The motion instructed the Department of Emergency Management and the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office to report within 30 days on the status of city’s extreme heat preparedness and how it can be improved, including through early warning systems. The motion also instructed the City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst to report within 30 days on available state and federal funding that will help the city’s emergency preparedness planning and implementation for heat waves.

The motion also called for the city to explore the status and cost of a surveillance system to track when and where heat-related deaths and injuries occur within the city, as well as information on vulnerable populations within those locations and plans to minimize near-zero deaths related to heat.

In another motion approved Wednesday, the City Council voted to begin the process of creating a Chief Heat Officer position.

That motion was introduced by Councilman Paul Krekorian, who said: “A Chief Heat Officer, following on the models that Miami and Phoenix and other places have already started to implement, will be one way to make sure that we focus those efforts across departments to ensure that we’re addressing the impacts of extreme heat and how to prevent them.”’

The Chief Legislative Analyst and the Administrative Officer were instructed to report within 90 days on the potential position, including its responsibilities, recommended governance, position authority and annual budget. That motion also instructed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to report on strategies to mitigate extreme heat, as well as the Department of Buildings and Safety to report on the feasibility of updating building codes to require new and existing buildings provide cooling or be cooling-ready.

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