Arizona officials want to designate extreme heat as a natural disaster

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Rep. Ruben Gallego are urging federal officials to designate extreme heat as a natural disaster.

There are 16 different incident types of declared disasters on FEMA's list. They include things like tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes, but not heat.

Due to temperatures increasing along with heat-related deaths, they say it's time to add another category.

 "So the heat is the number 1 weather-related killer in the U.S. especially in the Southwest," said Sean Benedict, a climatologist for the National Weather Service. "So it's definitely a major concern."

Last year, 425 deaths in Maricopa County were linked to the heat. So far this year, there have been five heat-related deaths, and 24 deaths remain under investigation.


Deadly heat waves in Phoenix, nationwide threaten older people as summer nears

Now, the heat dangers long known in greater Phoenix are becoming familiar nationwide as global warming creates new challenges to protect older residents.

The county says all the deaths so far this year have happened outside.