IMG_5849eLiving in Arizona, extreme heat is a situation we are all too familiar with each summer. High temperatures from May through September contribute to more than 118 deaths and more than 2,000 emergency room visits annually here in our state. Right now, it’s not that hot, but we know the scorching Arizona heat is right around the corner. It is never too late to be prepared.

Last week we hosted the Statewide Heat Safety Workgroup meeting. Twenty-eight participants from government agencies and non-profit organizations discussed effective heat safety interventions. Promoting cross-sector collaboration between federal, state, and local officials is needed to make sure vulnerable populations like older adults, the homeless, and those who work outdoors are able to have resources available to prevent heat-related illness.

Some of the highlights from last week’s meeting include the National Weather Service’s new heat messaging system for this year and the 2016 temperature outlook for this summer, which showed that

Arizona is likely to have a warmer than average summer this year . The Yuma Heat Relief Project also shared success stories from last year when they were instrumental in organizing new cooling centers and water donation sites in Yuma County.

Our department takes heat-related illness seriously and is currently working with partners to update our existing heat emergency response plan. A new goal for this year includes having partners update the Arizona State Heat Safety Resource Guide, which provides contact information, and resources available to prepare for the extreme heat in the summer months. A follow up meeting to discuss challenges and solutions regarding the upcoming heat season is planned to take place this summer.