Natural Disasters

Arizona appoints first-in-nation state heat response officer

The officer will coordinate state and municipal health groups, nonprofits and businesses to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.

The skyline of Phoenix, Arizona, at sunset
Matt Slocum / AP
SMS

Arizona has appointed a first-of-its-kind state health official to address the effects of extreme heat.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs appointed Dr. Eugene Livar as part of the state's extreme heat preparedness plan. Livar is tasked with coordinating state and municipal health groups, nonprofits and businesses to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events.

Livar has worked for Arizona's health department since 2012, including as assistant director for public health preparedness, where he helped develop the state's heat response.

"I’m excited to take on this role and this important work to make sure Arizona is prepared as possible for this upcoming heat season and beyond," Livar said in a statement on Wednesday.

While Livar's new post is the first statewide heat response officer, Phoenix itself also already has a city-level heat officer and an office of heat response and resiliency.

The heat preparedness plan is also expected to fund and deploy more cooling centers, improve energy grid resilience in the face of high demand, more closely track the public health impacts of high heat and evolve better disaster response across the state's agencies.

In 2023, Arizona's Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, set a new record for heat-related deaths. At least 469 deaths were confirmed as of October of that year, while more were still being investigated as potentially related.

Phoenix reaches record number of heat-related deaths
Phoenix reaches record number of heat-related deaths

Phoenix reaches record number of heat-related deaths

So far this year, there have been 425 confirmed heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County, Arizona.

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