Newsroom | Heat Deaths Rising in Maricopa County

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More than 300 people in Maricopa County lost their lives due to the heat last year, continuing an alarming upward trend in the region.

Heat Deaths Rising in Maricopa County
Heat Relief Network in effect to save lives

Heat Relief Network

PHOENIX (May 7, 2021)—The Arizona heat kills. More than 300 people in Maricopa County lost their lives due to the heat last year, continuing an alarming upward trend in the region. The annual Heat Relief Network, organized by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), launched in May with warnings that all residents are at risk, no matter their age or circumstance.

“Many of these victims were people experiencing homelessness. Some were people working outside. Some were homebound adults, says MAG Chair Jerry Weiers, mayor of Glendale. “But this can happen to anyone.”

The Heat Relief Network provides relief by offering cooling centers, hydration stations, and bottled water for those suffering in the extreme temperatures. Heat relief locations can be found on our interactive map, available online at the Heat Relief Network.

Coronavirus restrictions and a record number of days in the triple digits took a toll on relief efforts last year. In 2020 there were only 64 heat relief stations across the region offering water and refuge compared to 142 locations the previous year. Water donations were also down, with 42 collection locations compared to 90 sites in 2019. 

The Maricopa region has seen a disturbing increase in heat-related deaths over the years, with 61 confirmed deaths in 2014, 84 in 2015, 154 in 2016, 179 in 2017, 181 in 2018, 196 in 2019, and 323 in 2020. Most of the deaths occurred in July and August, but the heat can kill anytime between the spring and the fall.

“The Heat Relief Network is a true community effort that brings together cities and towns, nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, businesses, and individuals who mobilize to provide resources to those who are vulnerable,” says Goodyear Councilmember Wally Campbell, who chairs the MAG Human Services and Community Initiatives Committee. “We are hoping that many more partners will join the network this year, so that we can see a drop in the number of deaths.”

Partners can join the network as a cooling center, an indoor and air-conditioned building where people can get out of the heat and cool down, as a hydration station, an indoor or outdoor location that provides water, or by collecting donations for our network partners. You can sign up on the Heat Relief Network.

Most of us are aware of the danger to vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing homelessness and older adults. But even those in good physical shape can die in the heat. Below are tips that everyone can take to avoid heat-related illness.

  • Increase fluid intake regardless of activity level. Staying hydrated is extremely important.
  • Limit exercise or outdoor activity between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Never leave infants, children or pets inside a parked vehicle.
  • When outdoors, wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 and reapply often. Wear a hat, lightweight clothing and sunglasses.
  • Rest frequently in shady or cool areas to give the body's temperature a chance to recover and cool down.
  • Respectfully check on elderly neighbors to make sure their air conditioning is working and in use. Take advantage of free air-conditioning by visiting locations like shopping malls, the library or other heat refuge locations provided on the map.

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Published June 11, 2021

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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