According to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) heat associated death weekly report, 425 heat deaths have been confirmed so far in 2023. This matches the number of heat deaths confirmed in 2022—a new record itself—and with 199 other deaths still under investigation, 2023 will set yet another record for heat deaths in Maricopa County.
“Even with extreme heat like we saw this summer, these deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for MCDPH. “This tragic record reminds us that as a community, we have more work to do to prevent these deaths.”
Every year since 2016 has set a new record for heat deaths in Maricopa County since tracking began in 2006. Last year’s record of 425 was 25% higher than the previous record set in 2021. Based on preliminary data, 2023 will set another record, though it may take several months before all investigations are completed and data are finalized.
“Maricopa County residents and visitors should continue to practice heat safety and check on neighbors, even this late in the season, because heat illness and deaths can occur all the way into November due to rising temperatures,” added Dr. Sunenshine. “It’s not just extreme heat days that can turn into a tragedy.”
Heat safety tips include:
- Limit outdoor activities to the coolest parts of the day
- When spending extended amounts of time outdoors, go indoors to an air-conditioned location frequently
- Don’t rely on fans as your primary source of cooling, especially when outdoor temperatures are 95 degrees or higher
- Drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and lightweight clothes outdoors
- Never leave kids, older adults, pets, and others who may rely on you inside of a parked car
- Check on friends and neighbors, especially older adults, to ensure they have functioning air conditioning/cooling and enough water and supplies
- Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-associated illness like muscle cramps, headaches, vomiting, confusion, no longer sweating, and rapid heart rate
Beyond heat season, MCDPH will continue its work with partners to reduce heat-associated deaths:
- Analyzing data from its recent cooling center survey to understand how people find out about them and what can be done to increase usage
- Hiring a Cooling Center Coordinator position to implement strategies learned from the cooling center survey to increase access to cooling centers in Maricopa County
- Working with stakeholders to identify additional funding and partnerships to enhance heat-relief strategies in Maricopa County
- Hosting planning meetings with community, government, and faith-based partners to update Maricopa County’s Climate and Health Strategic Plan
For more information on emergency cooling centers, heat death statistics, and to sign up for heat warning alerts, go to heataz.org.