The Preventing Health Emergencies and Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act responds to increasing number of extreme heat cases in Arizona and across the country
WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema cosponsored the Preventing Health Emergencies and Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act to protect Arizonans from the increasing number of extreme heat cases, related illness, and deaths in Arizona and across the country.
The legislation comes as new findings indicate that Arizona’s heat is getting deadlier and resulting in more frequent trips to the hospital, and it seeks to reduce the risk of illness and death by authorizing a $7.5 million financial assistance program to community projects that study or educate the public about the effects of extreme heat events.
“As we’ve seen during the summer months, the extreme heat in Arizona can be dangerous – and, in many cases, deadly. Through our legislation, we’re boosting resources to mitigate the effects of extreme heat and protecting Arizonans from heat-related illnesses to ensure the health and safety of Arizonans,” said Sinema.
On average, 3,000 people visit Arizona emergency rooms annually after suffering from heat-related illness. From 2011 to 2021, 552 people died from heat-related causes in Arizona. In Maricopa County alone, heat-related or heat-caused deaths doubled to 113 in 2021, compared to 55 in 2020.
Sinema’s bill authorizes $7.5 million over five years for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to distribute funding to state and local governments, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations to study and educate local communities about the effects of extreme heat. The funding could be used to support entities such as the Phoenix Chief Heat Officer. The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act also codifies the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) and establishes an interagency committee to study extreme heat and issue recommendations for policy, research, response, and adaptation. The legislation passed the Commerce Committee on June 22, 2022.
In July, Sinema, in her duties as Chair of the Senate Government Operations and Border Management Subcommittee, held a field hearing in Phoenix to examine the dangerous effects of hot vehicles on U.S. Postal Service employees and operations in Arizona. The Senator highlighted that less than 20% of USPS vehicles in Arizona have air conditioning and some USPS employees have died from heat exposure in parts of the country.