Gov. Katie Hobbs announces Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, establishes chief heat officer

Mar 2, 2024, 6:11 PM | Updated: 6:14 pm

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(File photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(File photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced on Friday the state’s first Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, creating the country’s first state level heat officer.

Much of the short-term actions center around improving cooling center networks, including allocating pay for the staffs at cooling centers. The plan includes six new solar-powered mobile cooling units.

“What I heard time and again from everyday Arizonans was that our state’s old approach was not enough,” Hobbs said in a letter. “As a social worker who has dedicated my life to protecting everyday people, I knew we had to take action.

“Arizona is no stranger to the heat, yet we have always risen to the challenge, protected our neighbors and built a sustainable and thriving state. This time will be no different.”

The plan’s announcement included the creation of the country’s first state level heat officer, who will work closely with the Governor’s Office of Resiliency.

Arizona’s chief heat officer will “coordinate heat-specific efforts between agencies on shelter, energy, health and disaster response,” according to the plan details.

“I’m proud to lead this effort across state agencies and in partnership with various sectors, including health and human service providers, the business community and scientific experts to protect everyday Arizonans and ensure we have the tools we need,” Office of Resiliency Director Maren Mahoney said. “Together, I know we can tackle the challenges that lay ahead of us and build a thriving state.”

What are the long-term goals of Gov. Katie Hobbs’ new Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan?

The long-term goals of the plan focus on four key pillars:

Safe, affordable housing

Identified in the plan is a disparity of federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding to Arizona. Hobbs and her Office of Resiliency call on the federal government to make this right, providing affordable energy to Arizonans, “especially during the hotter months.”

Affordable housing developers are incentivized through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to adhere to the state Department of Housing priorities, with a focus on updated heat mitigation design.

Adapting and updating emergency response recommendations

The state is working to standardize the definition of an “extreme heat event” and establish reaction plans. The National Weather Service has utilized extreme weather notifications which have been helpful in spots, but there’s no standardized use across the state.

The plan also calls for state-managed Long Term Recovery Task Forces which would “bring a wide range of partners together on a regular basis” to address recovery and resiliency efforts.

Cooling center network improvements and support

Stable funding is needed so cooling center staffs can be there when Arizona’s most vulnerable populations need life-saving services.

Data sets, knowledge and workforce development

Cost efficiency is the name of the game, but Hobbs’ plan also calls for incentives such as tax credits for clean energy businesses so more clean energy jobs come to Arizona.

Extensive data sets are also needed because many Arizona jurisdictions don’t have the data logged with which to formulate reactive recovery plans, according to the plan.

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Gov. Katie Hobbs announces Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan, establishes chief heat officer