Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego joins President Biden’s rollout of heat protection plan

Jul 28, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:04 am

Gallego on screen in front of Biden during White House event...

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event on extreme heat July 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. During the event Biden announced additional actions to protect communities from the effects of extreme heat. On the monitor in the background is Mayor Kate Gallego of Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego on Thursday spoke about protections from extreme heat for workers with President Joe Biden as the administration aims to provide relief from high temperatures sweeping across the nation.

“Heat is a regular part of Arizona summers, but the past month’s heat wave is a prime example of how climate change is making our heat more intense, both in Phoenix and across the country,” Gallego said via video feed during the event at the White House.

Phoenix is the first in the nation to have a permanent, publicly funded heat office, Gallego said, with efforts now focused on getting residents inside as much as possible, at public cooling centers and encouraging use of water stations throughout the city.

What’s included in Biden’s heat protection plan?

Biden announced steps to protect workers, such as a hazard alert that will notify employees and employers about how to stay safe from extreme heat, as well as ways to improve weather forecasts.

“Even those places that are used to extreme heat have never seen it as hot as it is not for as long as it’s been,” Biden said. “Even those who deny we’re in the midst of a climate crisis can’t deny the impact extreme heat is having on Americans.”

Biden directed the Labor Department to increase inspections of potentially dangerous workplaces such as farms and construction sites and called for heightened enforcement of heat safety violations.

As part of the initiative, the department will issue a hazard alert notifying employers and employees about ways to stay protected from extreme heat, which has killed 436 workers since 2011, according to federal statistics.

The Biden administration also plans to spend $7 million to develop more detailed weather predictions to anticipate extreme weather like heat waves.

Here’s why Biden’s heat protection plan will cover Phoenix

“Federal support has been crucial for us during Phoenix summers, and additional resources would enable us to save more lives and keep developing short- and long-term solutions,” Gallego said. “That’s why I reiterated the need for extreme heat to be added to FEMA’s declared disasters list.”

Phoenix has seen at least 27 days in a row of temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. No other major city — defined as the 25 most populous in the United States — has had any stretch of 110-degree days or 90-degree nights longer than Phoenix, said weather historian Christopher Burt, of the Weather Company.

Maricopa County reported recently that there were 25 heat-associated deaths between April 11 and July 22. An additional 249 deaths remain under investigation. There were 425 heat-associated deaths in the county last year.

Other areas of Arizona are also struggling. A 26-year-old farmworker died after collapsing in the fields on July 20, when the high temperature reached 116 degrees, according to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego joins President Biden’s rollout of heat protection plan