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
    Firefighter/Specialist
    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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