Dr Snowden said that a formal, coordinated system to provide a clear plan for action and give the public clarity was necessary to reduce the human and economic costs of heatwaves and ensure better management of public services.
"We cannot continue to manage heatwaves on an ad hoc basis act as though they are rare or random," she said.
"Even if heatwaves are irregular, we should be prepared to implement an immediate system of graded alerts to ensure that essential services, health services and public transport have clear priorities.
"It is ludicrous that some authorities appear to be surprised by the consequences and requirements of the current weather conditions."
Dr Snowden said predictions about the increase in the frequency and severity of heatwaves for southern Australia and the continuing drought provide a strong rationale for the development of such a system.
"The failure to act ahead of need is reprehensible, and indulging in blame-shifting now is unlikely to fool the public, which simply wants clear, unambiguous information," she said.
"In many other countries which are subject to extreme weather conditions, systems have been developed to ensure a clear understanding of the conditions and implementation of appropriate responses.
"For example Hong Kong has a typhoon warning system, while in North America there are blizzard, tornado and hurricane warning systems, while in Japan everyone learns at an early age the appropriate action in the event of earthquake or tsunami. This planning clearly saves many lives.
"We already have a system in place for bushfire prone areas, and this should be extended generally to cover extreme heatwave conditions.
"It is important to provide people with certainty to enable the management of public infrastructure, emergency services and to allow businesses to plan appropriately."
Dr Snowden said a coordinated system for action in heatwave conditions required input from many agencies and had widespread implications, but was clearly necessary and urged immediate action by relevant governments and authorities.
"We don't need more reports, but we cannot continue to act as though heatwaves are an aberration, rather than an expectation," Dr Snowden said.