Extreme Heat Across the Country: How to Protect Your Community

Silhouette drinking water on a hot sunny day

Across the western region of the United States, the dreaded “Heat Dome” is once again taking shape (1). Beginning Tuesday, June 11th, heat warnings have been posted for around 20 million residents living within California’s central valley and Southwestern cities like Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Record high temperatures in Death Valley, Las Vegas, and Tucson are all well into the 100’s and temperatures in most of California will be 10-20 degrees hotter than average. This is also occurring more frequently in Urban Heat Islands (2) in cities across the country, not just the West.

This extreme increase in temperatures is now an increasing weather phenomenon that occurs every year, and although it is being seen as an inevitable addition to everyday life, it is much more dangerous than we realize. Extreme heat is the #1 climate killer across the world; and unlike catastrophic disasters and events, the exact number for heat-related deaths is incredibly hard to pinpoint, leading to a gross underestimation of these deaths worldwide.

Here at home, the US Department of Health and Human Services presents a concerning report: heat-related deaths have been steadily increasing from 1,600 in 2021 to 2,300 in 2023 (3). During the 2024 National Faith + Climate Forum, Rev. Katie Sexton spoke about her personal experience living in Arizona in the summer of 2023 during the first ever declared heat emergency which resulted in 30 days of temperatures over 110 fahrenheit and over 800 deaths (4).

One thing that must not be forgotten is that there are some groups of people that are affected by the climate crisis much more than others.  Agricultural workers in California work outside in the searing heat of the sun every day. Likewise, construction workers across the entire region (and country) face direct heat in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest. Some other examples of those most vulnerable against extreme heat are low-income, minority communities who often struggle to afford running their air-conditioning all day, others who struggle to afford stable housing, and of course, people with pre-existing health conditions whose symptoms are amplified with the heat.

Through the worst parts of it all, there are ways that you can mitigate and respond to the extreme heat and aid those who are most vulnerable. Rev. Katie Sexton shared stories about how the Arizona Faith Network has been working together with different denominations to establish heat relief and respite sites at faith centers for the surrounding communities (4).

Establish your congregation as a heat relief/cooling center site. Ensure that there is plenty of water for people to drink, that your air-conditioning is in working order, and that you and the people around you can recognize the signs of heat stroke and illness (5). Consult the One Home One Future Disaster Preparedness Checklist (6) to ensure that you have all the necessary supplies and information to host such a relief site.

Additionally, you can take the time to learn more about the effects and dangers of extreme heat by taking the Blessed Tomorrow Climate Ambassador Training (7). Upon completion, you will be well prepared to communicate on climate and make a difference addressing issues that people in your community are having with heat.

If you are unable to create your own heat relief sites, you can organize a trip to a local community center, movie theater, shopping mall or utilize this webpage to locate cooling centers in your state (8). Whatever gets people out of the sun, indoors, and hydrated is the best possible solution.


  1. The Washington Post, “What to know about the heat pulsing back into the West this week,” (2024).
  2. Climate for Health, “Urban Heat Islands: A Climate Action Premier,” (2022).
  3. US Department of Health and Human Services, “Extreme Heat,” (2024).
  4. ecoAmerica, “National Faith + Climate Forum 2024,” (2024).
  5. American Red Cross, “Extreme Heat Safety,” (2024).
  6. One Home One Future, “Disaster Preparedness Checklist,” (2024).
  7. Blessed Tomorrow, “Blessed Tomorrow Ambassador Training,” (2024).
  8. National Center for Healthy Housing, “Cooling Centers by State,” (2024).

About the Author:
Eric Márquez, Blessed Tomorrow Intern with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy

Additional Resources:

Watch the American Climate Leadership Awards 2024

Watch the 2024 American Climate Leadership Awards for High School Students

Join the Campaign: One Home One Future

Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Children and Youth Report 2023

Blessed Tomorrow Resources

Blessed Tomorrow – Ambassador Training

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