By Matt Roy
It’s not news — summer has arrived.
Also no surprise, county officials issued excessive heat warnings to start July as well as other reports, which signal a dire threat to Valley residents — especially seniors.
Historically, July tracks as the single deadliest month in Arizona.
Each of the past three years has notched the greatest number of heat-related deaths than any over the past two decades.
Residents over 50 comprise 73% of the 182 reported fatalities last year, according to a reported published by the Maricopa County Health Department.
The department’s weekly snapshot issued last week reveals only three heat-related deaths so far, with 37 total cases currently under investigation.
But if the trend continues, those numbers could rise sharply over the next few weeks.
Last year, July saw 77 fatalities attributed as heat-related or heat-caused, with more than 72% of associated with outdoor activity. Men accounted for two-thirds of victims, while less than one-third of cases involved homeless persons.
The most recent years in the study — 2016 through 2018 — revealed significantly higher rates of heat-related death with 154, 179 and 182 total annual deaths reported respectively.
The county hosts an interactive map of its Heat Relief Regional Network, which lists locations across the Valley, where area residents can get help at hydration stations, heat refuges and water collection sites.
A key partner in the county’s summertime life-saving efforts is the Salvation Army, which issued a press release yesterday touting its Emergency Disaster Services.
“Heat is our natural disaster,” stated Major David Yardley, The Salvation Army Metro Phoenix program coordinator. “There were 182 heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County last year, and we are trying to do our part to lower those numbers.”
In response to the current excessing heat warning – which runs through Saturday – the charity group is offering a dozen heat relief stations available across the Valley, including locations in Apache Junction, Avondale, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Surprise and Tempe.
“We also encourage the community to check on neighbors who might be at risk of dehydration or heat-related health issues,” stated Mr. Yardley.
The group is seeking cash donations and, most importantly they say, volunteers to help their effort.
“If you would like to help the effort, you can make a cash donation at SalvationArmyPhoenix.org or text HEAT to 51555 — but the most important need is for volunteers at The Salvation Army’s heat relief stations to help provide life-saving heat relief,” according the agency’s release.
Call 602-267-4100 to learn more.
Child & pet safety
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office hosts a website — www.safekidsaz.org — which focuses on information to keep children safe during the hotter season. The agency says children are also especially vulnerable to rising temperatures.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke in hot cars because their body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adults,” according to information posted at the website. “In fact, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-collision fatalities for children 14 and younger, even though most heatstroke deaths that occur in cars are 100% preventable.”
Even while we’re enjoying the comfortably cool 60s outside or in a car parked under shade, inside an enclosed automobile, the ambient temperature can quickly rise above 110 degrees.
A child or pet trapped in such a vehicle faces even greater risks during the summer months when temperatures soar toward 120 degrees.According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 1998 through April 2018, vehicular heatstroke claimed the lives of 744 children in the U.S. Among those, 54% were left in a vehicle unintentionally; 27% got inside by themselves and became trapped; and 18% were left inside intentionally.
As part of MCAO’s Vehicular Heatstroke Campaign, which runs through August 31, officials offered the following advice:
- Never leave a child or an animal alone in a parked car — even with the windows rolled down or air conditioning on.
- Always check the back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
- Never let children play in an unattended vehicle.
- Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including their trunks.
- If dropping a child off is not part of your normal routine, take steps to remind yourself that the child is in the car.
Some examples of reminders are: placing something you need to take with you in the back seat next to the car seat so that you’ll check the back seat before you leave; set a reminder on a cell phone or calendar; or instruct your daycare provider to call you if your child does not show up.
Understandably, pets face the same risks as children when left unattended in hot cars.
Some signs of heat stroke in children include:
- Red, hot and moist or dry skin
- No sweating
- Strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Irritable or strange behavior
For pets, warning signs can include: loud, rapid panting; excessive thirst; vomiting or diarrhea; seizures; glazed eyes; weakness or collapse.
For any child or pet showing signs of heatstroke, get medical attention immediately.
If you see a child or pet locked in a hot car, call 911 before attempting to access the vehicle.
Salvation Army Emergency Heat Relief Stations
Apache Junction: Apache Junction Corps Community Center, 605 E. Broadway Road
Avondale: Estrella Mountain Corps Community Center, 11 N. Third Ave
Chandler: Chandler Corps Community Center, 85 E. Saragosa St.
Glendale: Glendale Corps Community Center, 6010 W. Northern Ave.
Glendale: Valley of the Sun Korean Corps Community Center, 7238 N. 61st Ave.
Mesa: Mesa Corps Community Center, 241 E. Sixth St.
Phoenix: Phoenix Citadel Corps Community Center, 628 N. Third Ave.
Phoenix: Maryvale Corps Community Center, 4318 W. Clarendon Ave.
Phoenix: Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center South Mountain, 1375 E. Broadway Road
Phoenix: The Salvation Army Phoenix Family Services Office, 2707 E. Van Buren St., Bldg. 2
Surprise: Sun Cities West Valley Corps Community Center, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts Blvd.
Tempe: Tempe Corps Community Center, 40 E. University Drive