So are these heat death numbers just being made up on the stop or what?

A quick scan of this mornings news headlines shows that there is quite a bit of leeway in the number of deaths being attributed to the heat. Check this, all from this morning:

Nearly 100 deaths counted as California cooldown sets in – Associated Press

Death toll in California heat wave up to 126 – Reuter

Heat Death Toll Tops 140; Two More Sacramento Victims Identified – KXTV Sacramento

Death Toll From Calif. Heat Rises to 132 – Associated Press

5 Replies to “So are these heat death numbers just being made up on the stop or what?”

  1. As someone who spends far too much time at the Coroner’s Office, I can offer that statistics are malleable within a given frame of reference.

    Primary vs. secondary causes of death are but one obvious element, as is the way the question is asked and answered.

    A reporter benignly seeking to know whether “heat was a factor” in someone’s death might mistakenly collate such deaths with ones where “heat was the specific cause” of death.

    Such data-skewing is especially a risk when a large pool of reporters seek data from disparate sources across a broad geographic region.

    Sadly, we’re likely to learn that many of these deaths were preventable.

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

  2. Exactly what Brian said. If the media reports deaths where the heat was listed as a “contributing factor” to an underlying illness then those numbers are going to rise. No one is making anything up here.

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