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Phoenix taking action to cut heat-related deaths during dangerous summer months

Posted: 5:47 AM, Mar 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-14 12:21:38Z

Arizona summers are known for breaking records for all the wrong reasons. Our scorching stretches of triple-digit temperatures are not just uncomfortable, they have turned deadly. 

In 2017, there were roughly 50 heat-related deaths. Approximately 140 others remain under investigation for their links to the heat.  

Now, the City of Phoenix is trying to take action with a program the nation has never seen before. 

"There's no doubt that Phoenix already is a desert city," Mayor Greg Stanton said. "A very hot city is getting hotter." 

Phoenix has been selected one of 35 cities for a Bloomberg $5 million grant to create a new 'Heat Ready' program, according to Stanton.  

He said the city is already working with Harvard and Arizona State University researchers to come up with a program to improve living conditions with scientifically proven solutions. Stanton said he hopes it can become a model for the nation.

"The policies and programs that we adopt here to make the rising temperatures more livable are the exact policies that cities around the United States of America are going to adopt," Stanton explained. "Because it's getting warmer elsewhere, as well." 

The exact plan is still being worked out, but Stanton said that some ideas they have discussed are adding more shade along popular walking routes and bus stops, planting more trees, and creating more cooling stations where homeless citizens can get water, food and medical attention.

Stanton also said that it may be time to re-work city building codes. 

"Temperatures at night aren't going down as much as they used to," Stanton explained. "That's really what the urban heat island is all about. So, that's why we need to look at our building codes to make our buildings less hard-scaped." 

Stanton said they should get the results in the next few months, but believes that even if the city does not win, discussing new solutions is necessary.