Protecting the public from heat-related illness and death during extreme heat events or in connection with other disasters is an important part of disaster preparedness and resilience and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission. This Challenge is seeking innovative climate-friendly cooling solutions that can provide access to cooling to people in public and residential areas. DHS is looking for novel ways to protect those at risk of heat-related illness or death, including first responders, households or group quarters without access to conventional cooling systems or experiencing sustained power outages, and displaced or homeless populations. Relative to current cooling solutions, these new designs will be more eco-friendly and energy efficient, while being cost effective, scalable, durable, and allowing for alternate power sources. These features will make them well suited for mitigating emerging risks associated with extreme heat conditions from or during disasters. Cascading impacts resulting from catastrophic damages or loss of power during disasters exacerbate risks of heat-related illness, when conventional air conditioning (A/C) is not available during extreme heat conditions. Climate change is also driving local heat events that exceed historic temperature extremes. During heat events, those at the greatest risk of heat-related illness include infants and young children; people 65 years of age or older; people with illnesses or chronic health conditions; and homeless or displaced populations. First responders or those required to work outdoors in support of community lifelines are also at risk for heat-related illness or require solutions to support encounters with heat-related illness.
This Challenge is part of the DHS’s effort to implement a proactive approach to climate change adaptation and resilience. This will be the first in a series of Challenges to address hazards posed by extreme weather due to climate change.
Promoting national resilience against the many threats associated with climate change, including extreme heat, is a DHS priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extreme heat events have become more common across the United States in recent decades and are expected to become more common, more severe, and longer lasting as global temperatures continue to rise.
Extreme heat events and their effects significantly impact the United States. Extreme heat events are one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, and a reason for many emergency departments visits and hospital stays. For example, record-breaking heat indexes in the Pacific Northwest in June 2021 caused more than 2,500 people to seek emergency department treatment for heat-related illness. In addition to causing extreme heat events, rising global temperatures produce extreme weather conducive to wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes, and that extreme weather can have large cascading effects of extended power outages coupled with high temperatures. This is causing large populations in communities across the country to be more vulnerable to heat-related illness. In the wake of the extended power outages caused by Hurricane Ida, for example, Louisiana has recorded several heat-related deaths.
There are some simple safety measures that people can take to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses or death, including avoiding unnecessary sun exposure, avoiding unnecessary hard work or activities outdoors, drinking water often, wearing light and loose-fitting clothing, and staying in an air-conditioned area during the hottest hours of the day. However, many Americans who experience extreme heat events lack access to conventional air conditioning. Solutions are needed to protect them, and to do so in an energy-efficient, user-friendly, and cost-effective way.
Total cash prize pool: $195,000
This Challenge is in two stages.
- Stage 1 – Up to fifteen (15) Finalists will receive $5,000 each and proceed to the Stage 2 of the Challenge. Finalists are selected based on fulfilling submission instructions and Stage 1 judging criteria.
- Stage 2 – Prize Winners are selected based on fulfilling submission requirements, Stage 2 judging criteria, and Use Case applicability.
- Stage 2 Prize Winners:
- One (1) Grand Prize Winner: $50,000
- One (1) Runner-up Winner: $20,000
- Up to Four (4) Use Case Winners: $10,000
- Up to Two (2) Honorable Mentions: $5,000