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"Hot Town, Summer in the City": Exploring perception of and adaptation to extreme heat in Phoenix, Arizona

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Monday, 24 January 2011
"Hot Town, Summer in the City": Exploring perception of and adaptation to extreme heat in Phoenix, Arizona
Washington State Convention Center
Dana Pauzauskie, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and M. H. Hayden, O. Wilhelmi, and H. Brenkert-Smith

Extreme heat is the main cause of weather-related mortality in the United States. Cities, such as Phoenix, Arizona, are expected to be further challenged by increased number, duration, and intensity of heat waves over the course of the century, with the potential for adverse health impacts. Research is necessary to improve understanding of the social determinants of health and improve heat mitigation planning. Incorporating the voice of urban residents is vital in understanding how to prepare and protect them from heat. This project examined data from 362 household surveys gathered in August 2009 in three at-risk Phoenix, AZ neighborhoods strategically chosen based on heat distress calls and mortality rates. Quantitative and qualitative responses were analyzed using SPSS software. Frequency reports revealed three fourths of residents reported having Excellent to Good health while one fourth reported Fair to Poor health. Reported symptoms of heat exposure included thirst, dizziness, headache, nausea and fatigue; 78.2% reported experiencing symptoms when outdoors. However, 56.5% of unemployed residents in one neighborhood reported being too hot inside the home, and 69.6% limited air conditioning due to cost of electricity. Alternative adaptive measures included using fans and swamp coolers and leaving the home for shopping malls. Residents reported receiving information on heat from local television stations, radio, cable, and the internet, but only 27% reported knowing where city resources such as cooling centers were located. Better understanding of how people experience, prepare for, and adapt to extreme heat should guide information dissemination and heat mitigation planning.