ARIZONA NEWS

12 heat-related deaths recorded in Maricopa County so far this year

Jul 14, 2023, 4:45 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

Twelve heat-associated deaths have been confirmed so far this year in metro Phoenix, Arizona, accor...

Even desert residents accustomed to scorching summers are feeling the grip of an extreme heat wave this week. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Twelve heat-associated deaths have been confirmed so far this year, according to the latest data from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

MCDPH Assistant Medical Director Nick Staab said the department has been collecting data on heat-related deaths since 2006.

The first heat-related death in metro Phoenix this year was April 11. In addition to the 12 recorded through the week of July 2-8, 55 cases were under investigation.

At the same time last year, 17 heat-related deaths had been confirmed and 126 cases were under investigation.

“You’ll notice that there are fewer cases under investigation now than there were in 2022, and that may have something to do with temperatures we saw earlier in the summer,” Staab told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

“We also are increasing opportunities for people to get out of the heat through our Heat Relief Network.”

Staab said his agency documented a record 425 heat-related deaths in 2022, a 25% increase from the previous year.

“We know in public health at this is a real threat to the public and [we] are hoping to get out a message of prevention,” he said.

“All of these deaths are preventable deaths. So if people can make a plan to protect themselves from the heat, then we can prevent death.”

Maricopa County heat-related deaths demographics

Certain demographics are at a higher risk of experiencing heat-associated deaths.

Staab said overall data shows men representing about 80% of the cases in the Phoenix area.

“We also know that for men, the age group of 50 to 64 tends to be the most represented in our data. And so that’s really the demographic that we believe to be at the highest risk,” he said.

So far this year, about half of the deaths are people experiencing homelessness, according to the weekly report.

Although heat-related deaths are being experienced more by the homeless population, Staab emphasized that everyone is at risk.

“I don’t want anyone to think that they’re not at risk. We all live in this heat together,” he said.

“We are really trying to emphasize that everybody needs a plan to know where they can go to get out of the heat should they have a power failure or if they have loved ones who may have issues finding a place out of the heat.”

Beating the Arizona heat

The Maricopa Association of Governments’ Heat Relief Network has expanded the number of places where people can cool off in metro Phoenix.

The program, which runs annually from May 1 to Sept. 30, offers more than 200 cooling centers, respite centers, hydration stations and collection sites throughout the Valley.

“It is so important that people have a place to go where they can get out of the heat and let their bodies cool down during the hottest parts of the day,” Staab said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Tasler contributed to this report.

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12 heat-related deaths recorded in Maricopa County so far this year