With extreme metro Phoenix heat around the corner, health official says preparation is key

Jun 4, 2024, 4:35 AM

Arizona's bout with extreme heat is nearing. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...

Arizona's bout with extreme heat is nearing. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Metro Phoenix’s extreme heat is nearing and a top county health official said the best way to combat blistering temperatures is to properly prepare.

Nick Staab, assistant medical director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told KTAR News 92.3 FM the key to avoiding heat-related illness or possible death is to have a plan on how to deal with it.

Maricopa County is coming off its worst year for heat-related deaths, with a record 645 in 2023. The total soared by more than 50% year-over-year.

“Everyone is at risk from heat who is here in Maricopa County,” Staab said Monday. “We all need to have a plan and you can imagine that having a plan and following through with that plan to stay safe in the heat is more difficult.”

Who especially needs to have a heat preparedness plan in metro Phoenix?

Staab said some groups of people need to take extra care in the extreme heat.

That includes those with underlying medical conditions, the elderly and those who are unhoused.

People who partake in excessive drug or alcohol use in hot weather will have a greater risk of not being able to execute on plans they do make, added Staab.

“If you have an altered sense and if you’re not thinking straight … can put an individual in a spot where they can’t follow through with that plan that they may have otherwise made,” Staab said.

Resources for those experiencing homelessness have improved, especially in metro Phoenix. Even so, Staab said there’s an emphasis on avoiding heat illness and death for that population.

“They just don’t have a secure, regular space where they can go to cool off,” Staab said. “That’s really why we’re expanding the network of cooling centers, getting more respite centers and expanding to hours including more weekend days.

“This is really the effort we are putting forth to make the system more accessible to those who are at highest risk.”

Maricopa County has seen two heat-related deaths so far in 2024 with more than 40 others under investigation.

Wednesday will mark the first excessive heat warning of the year in Phoenix with high temperatures expected to be in the 110s.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz-McNair contributed to this report.

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With extreme metro Phoenix heat around the corner, health official says preparation is key