By Chris Caraveo
Despite being in the middle of WalletHub’s report on the safest states in the U.S., Arizona fares moderately well when it comes to emergency preparedness.
The Grand Canyon State, with only 23 so-called “climate disasters” causing at least $1 billion in damages between 1980 and 2019, and shelling out $951 per capita from those damages, ranks in the top 10 in both metrics.
And in the next five years, the West Valley will have a facility that will help prepare the state’s soldiers, as well as aid the community in times of dire emergency.
The recently passed $11.8 billion budget in Arizona includes $3.9 million for a West Valley Readiness Center operated by the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, as highlighted by Gov. Doug Ducey in a news release.
That amount is Arizona’s commitment to a 3:1 match with the federal government in funding the West Valley Readiness Center. In all, construction costs are $15.5 million.
Details on the facility are minimal. However, Capt. Aaron C. Thacker, public information officer for the Arizona National Guard, told the Daily News-Sun the center will be designed to house two company-sized units (120 to 160 personnel per company depending on what type of unit it is) for the Arizona Army National Guard.
“This will be a place where soldiers will gather to train for their mission to fight and protect our state and our nation,” Mr. Thacker said. “It will serve as a storage facility for unit equipment such as vehicles, communications equipment, weapons and more. There will be sleeping quarters, showers and [mezzanine] space to provide basic life support for our citizen-soldiers.
“It can also serve as an incident command center during natural disasters, power outages and civil disturbances. This facility will serve as a mobilization hub when called upon for deployments. Ultimately, this facility will be designed to better support the safety and security needs of the West Valley’s communities, families and veterans.”
Construction is expected to begin April 2023 with a completion date around December 2024.
Officials are currently trying to identify a specific location for the readiness center in the West Valley. Mr. Thacker said the municipalities in the area have been receptive to the news and are working in tandem on finding the right spot.
The West Valley Readiness Center will become home to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 1120th Transportation Battalion, and the 855th Military Police Company, Mr. Thacker said.
The center has been in the works for at least two years.
Mr. Thacker said the Arizona National Guard has 30 readiness centers around the state. The most notable readiness center is at Papago Park, 5636 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix, which is where the community usually sees military personnel depart from.
Officials are currently working on a 31st center in Tucson. So the West Valley location will be the 32nd.
Mr. Thacker said that when the Guard gets involved in domestic matters, they are usually in support of — and enhance the capabilities of — a civil agency like a police or fire department.
“Regarding civil disturbance, we are fortunate that we have some of the finest citizens in our great nation, so we’ve only had to be prepared for civil unrest in modern times, rather than execute missions like riot control,” he said. “We are poised to support civil authorities during events like the Super Bowl or major rallies like when the President visits or the Women’s March. Basically, we have to be prepared to support anytime there are large groups of people gathered.
“However, sometime during fires and floods we will support law enforcement with presence patrols to help deter looters, or help citizens find their way to safety.”
June is National Safety Month. And with the U.S. recently hit by tragedies from wildfires to mass shootings, WalletHub’s report on 2019’s Safest States in America serves as one of multiple barometers on where people might feel the safest.
However, in order to help people find the most secure place to settle down, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 52 key metrics, ranging from assaults per capita to unemployment rate to total loss amounts from climate disasters per capita.
Arizona came in at No. 27, boosted in part by its emergency preparedness metrics; its low workplace injuries, deaths and days lost; and its employment growth and security.
Minnesota, Vermont and Maine are the safest, while Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida are the least safe.
Arizona lacks in its crime stats, coming in the bottom 15 in murders and non-negligent manslaughters; forcible rapes; assaults; and rapes. All of those are per capita. Oddly, Arizona is the 14th safest state in sex offenders per capita.
About 61 percent of Arizona families with children feel they feel safe in their neighborhoods, 42nd in the nation. That is despite Arizona ranking 23rd in law-enforcement employees per capita. Although, the state apparently only has two active firefighters per capita (49th best) and 53 emergency medical technicians and paramedics per capita (47th best).
However, Casey T. Harris, co-director of the Center for Social Research at the University of Arkansas, told WalletHub that people should not use crime as the sole factor in determining whether a place is safe.
“Overall then, perhaps the best way for people to understand how crime stacks up against other threats (weather, pollution, etc.) is to first understand what crime actually looks like in real life,” he said.
“What types of crime are most common, how common it is today versus the past, where it is most likely to take place, who is most likely to be victimized by it, and why particular types of crime take place.”