The frequency of extreme heat events, such as the summer of 2003 in Europe, and their corresponding consequences for human beings are expected to increase under a warmer climate. The joint collaboration of institutional agencies and multidisciplinary approaches is essential for a successful development of heat-health warning systems and action plans which can reduce the impacts of extreme heat on the population. The present work constitutes a state-of-the-art review of 16 European heat-health warning systems and heat-health action plans, based on the existing literature, web search (over the National Meteorological Services websites) and questionnaires. The aim of this study is to pave the way for future heat-health warning systems, such as the one currently under development in the framework of the Horizon 2020 HEAT-SHIELD project. Some aspects are highlighted among the variety of examined European warning systems. The meteorological variables that trigger the warnings should present a clear link with the impact under consideration and should be chosen depending on the purpose and target of the warnings. Setting long-term planning actions as well as pre-alert levels might prevent and reduce damages due to heat. Finally, education and communication are key elements of the success of a warning system.
Keywords: action plan; heat stress; heat-health warning system; intervention strategy; user-tailored.