Our first 100-plus degree day arrived in late April.
This event was a reminder we trade eight months of generally beautiful weather for four months of very hot weather.
Arizona is one of the hottest places on earth during the summer months. Arizona summers mean extreme heat, dehydration, crazy thunderstorms and lightning, drownings, possible power outages, haboobs (apparently something we share with Mars!) and violations of the Stupid Motorist Law (ARS 28-910).
Surviving Arizona summers requires some preparation, planning and understanding situations can turn dangerous very quickly. Did you know extreme heat is responsible for the most deaths among all weather-related hazards?
Extreme heat is a period of high heat and humidity with temperatures above 90 degrees for at least two days. Older adults, children, sick and overweight individuals are at the greatest risk from extreme heat.
In 2022, there was a record 671 heat-related deaths in Arizona. In addition around 3,000 people visit hospital emergency departments every summer due to the heat.
Prepare for extreme heat. It could be a lifesaver.
Prepare your home
- Get your A/C serviced in the spring to be sure it is ready. If nothing else, make sure you have the telephone number of a reliable air conditioning service company before you are in a crisis situation. If you have vulnerable family members, consider an A/C service contract. The contract assures you will have had your unit serviced. And if an emergency occurs, the contract generally makes you a priority for service.
- Make an emergency plan that includes a friend or family member who might be able to provide a place to cool off during the hottest part of the day. If you’re reluctant to impose on someone else, identify a location you could drive to, such as the Maricopa Library and Cultural Center or the Copper Sky Multigenerational Center.
- Do not count on a fan to cool yourself or your pet. Fans create air flow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature or prevent heat-related illnesses. This is particularly true for your dog.
- Shade your windows with sheets, towels or blankets if you do not have window coverings.
- Add attic insulation and weather-stripping to your doors and windows to help keep the heat out. Window reflectors or reflecting window film can also assist in reducing heat gain through your windows. Adding attic exhaust fans can help reduce the heat buildup in your attic space.
- Install a window air conditioner to create a cool zone somewhere in your house if you have no central air.
- Don’t use your oven.
- Keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible.
- Keep extra ice in your freezer.
- Acquire a modern cooler. Some of the newer designs can maintain ice for days.
- Store bottled water in your home for emergencies. The shelf life of bottled water is about two years, so you should periodically rotate your supply.
- Never leave people or pets in a car on a warm day – not even for a few minutes.
- Temperatures can build up very rapidly to deadly conditions. Always check your back seat when leaving the car.
- Take cool shower or bath.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Find shade and wear a hat that will protect your face when you are outside.
Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Have bottled water in your car should you have a breakdown or get caught in a road closure.
- Register with You Are Not Alone if you are living alone and have no one to check in on you. They will contact you on a regular basis to check on your welfare.
- Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and proper responses.
- Seek medical attention quickly if you are experiencing symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
Ron Smith is a senior advocate, a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee and a member of the Maricopa Community Advocates. He is a CAPS and CLIPP™ certified planner.
This content was previously published in the June issue of InMaricopa Magazine.