ARIZONA NEWS

Heat Relief Network aims to reduce heat-related deaths during metro Phoenix’s hottest months

May 1, 2024, 11:00 AM

Crates of bottled water are seen stacked up near the entrance of a Heat Relief Network site at Firs...

Crates of bottled water are seen stacked up near the entrance of a Heat Relief Network site at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Phoenix in July 2023. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Heat Relief Network, an annual campaign to reduce heat-related deaths during metro Phoenix’s hottest months, is up and running for 2024.

The Maricopa Association of Governments program, which started Wednesday and runs through Sept. 30, is a public-private partnership made up of cities, nonprofit organizations, faith-based communities and businesses across the Valley.

The heart of the effort is a regional network of cooling centers, respite centers and hydration stations and donation collection sites.

How are officials working to improve Heat Relief Network?

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), which is coordinating this year’s Heat Relief Network, has been working to make the services more accessible to vulnerable populations that need them most.

“The number one thing we learned from our cooling center assessment in 2023 is that people need cooling centers to be open longer and on weekends. The other important piece we learned is that people need help finding cooling centers and other heat-relief resources,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, MCDPH medical director, said in a press release.

“With this in mind, our team has been working tirelessly all winter with our … partners to refine our current heat-relief system’s hours of operation and ensure that we have a system in place for people to find these resources.”

The plan includes keeping at least one heat-relief site open until 7 p.m. Monday-Friday in each of the following cities: Phoenix, Glendale, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe. Those cities also will have at least one site open on at least one weekend day.

The Heat Relief Network website includes a searchable map of cooling centers, respite centers and hydration stations and donation collection sites, as well as a resource page that includes tips on how to avoid heat-related illnesses.

The interactive map shows the address, phone number and hours of operation for each site. More locations will be added as they join the network.

How many heat-related deaths were there in metro Phoenix last year?

Maricopa County documented a record 645 heat-related deaths in 2023. Sixty-four percent of those deaths occurred during July, when Phoenix endured the hottest month ever recorded in a U.S. city.

The previous record was in 2022, when the county health officials documented 425 heat-related deaths. The annual total has increased tenfold over the last decade.

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Heat Relief Network aims to reduce heat-related deaths during metro Phoenix’s hottest months