With each passing day, we are reminded that it is getting hotter out, gone are the days of bare feet to take the trash out. No more jeans and long sleeve shirts, it’s time for shorts, tank tops, and dips in the pool.
However, not all of us are this lucky and trust us when we say the heat and its illness do not discriminate. In 2016 heat-related deaths took 233 Arizona residents from us. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 38% of all Pinal County heart-related hospital visits were due to occupational hazards/ exposure. In 2017 the largest population of Emergency Department visits across the Grand Canyon State were from 20 – 44 years of age. Of the 2957 Heat-Related Illness visits, 2634 were residents of the state.
As temperatures and humidity climb, the need for proper hydration increases. If you’re outside between the times of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you should be drinking a gallon of water. That’s hard enough to do for someone that has a house, let alone someone that is homeless.
In years past the United Way of Pinal County (UWPC) has facilitated local community water drives and hydration/ cooling stations. In 2018 the United Way collaborated with 70 government, business, social service, and faith-based agencies to create the Heat Relief Network (HRN). This network provides information on hydration stations, refuge locations, and water donation sites throughout Pinal County to prevent heat-related and heat-caused deaths among people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations.
Through the 2018 summer months, the HRN placed 38 pallets of water (86,000 individual water bottles) throughout Pinal County and to agencies and community members in need. The HRN is a collaborative effort spearheaded the UWPC, Central Arizona Governments, and the Pinal County Health Department, in partnership with municipalities, government agencies, the faith-based community, local businesses, community investors and more.
For the 2019 summer season, the HRN has set an ambitious goal of 50 pallets of water (110,000 individual water bottles) across our county. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) alone requires 16 pallets of water just for their patrol vehicles and services provided. The UWPC in partnership with Pinal County Emergency Management is also looking to place at least eight pallets in various strategic locations in case of an emergency.
In past years the HRN has received donations from our local grocery stores, trash services, and other local businesses. Through a generous corporate donation from GU Energy Labs, the HRN has been able to secure electrolytes for summer distribution as well. This is crucial as not only does the body need to be hydrated, but it needs to be nourished as well.
“With the communities support, we know that our goal of 50 pallets is obtainable. Year over year, we have seen increased support for the Heat Relief Network,” said Braden Biggs the United Way of Pinal County Community Programs Manager. “We are asking all of Pinal County to join us yet again, and #LiveUnited to ensure that we stay hydrated and help our most vulnerable community members!”
We need Heart Relief Stations, Hydration Stations, Drop Off Stations, and Emergency Refuge Stations across Pinal County. If you would like to donate cases or pallets of water, you can contact the United Way of Pinal County at 520-836-0736. To make a monetary donation or learn more, text UWPC WATER to 313131 or visit www.unitedwayofpc.org/heatrelief. For more program information contact Community Programs Manager, Braden Biggs at 520-836-0736.
About United Way of Pinal County
The United Way of Pinal County is a nonprofit organization that brings people and communities together to advance the common good through services that improve lives. The organization partners with local nonprofits, businesses, and government and social service agencies, to address the communities’ most pressing needs. The mission statement is “United Way of Pinal County matches generosity with community needs to promote lasting change in people’s lives” -unitedwayofpc.org.