Reducing Our Risk

PSR, Arizona

Entry Overview

Arizona is particularly vulnerable to effects of extreme weather caused by climate change. The IPCCprojects with 80% confidence that extreme heat events will intensify in magnitude and duration overportions of the Southwest U.S. and increase in frequency and magnitude of unusually warm days/nights. Extreme heat events are the leading cause of extreme weather-related deaths in the United States. Extreme heat also threatens to disrupt utilities such as water and electricity. Without access to air conditioning, or water that relies on electric pumps for distribution the average Arizonan day could become a life-threatening day. Research (Klinenberg: “Heat Wave”) has demonstrated that the social cohesiveness in vulnerable neighborhoods are the deciding factor in preventing deaths with extreme heat events. This project is based on the education and training about how to build neighborhood resilience and be prepared for such events in neighborhoods throughout our Tucson, AZ and Pima County. Working groups are established and training materials developed, in response to a call for action at our conference Climate Smart Southwest in late 2013.

General Info
Email :
Organization Address: 
3653 N Prince Village Place
Tucson, Arizona 85719
United States
Population Impacted: 
Up to 1 million
Extreme Temperature
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Arizona communities are hotter and drier for 30 days longer durations in the year. The electric power grid is vulnerable to extreme heat and overuse of electricity for cooling. Temperatures of over 100 degrees can last extended periods. Extreme heat, old housing stock, many pockets of very vulnerable neighborhoods and risks of power outage for several days are a recipe for disaster.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
Many elderly in Tucson live in old housing stock & cultural/ethnic diversity common among those in the poorest and most vulnerable neighborhoods. Education and preparation not offered by City and County officials in these or any of our neighborhoods, causing high risk for death/bad outcomes of disasters and with lack of cohesiveness and preparation for severe climate events. Power grid in the SW is old and very susceptible to blackouts when overtaxed.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
Without electricity, no communication, fuel pumping, running water, refrigeration, cooling, etc. Isolated and vulnerable homebound could die at home. Neighbors may not know they are there. Anyone can die from extreme heat. Panic and overcrowding of public resources (hospitals, police, public centers, etc.) which are not prepared to handle large influxes.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
Tucson is highly dependent on air conditioning for cooling in summer months, which are lasting longer. High population of elderly, immigrants, Native Americans and Spanish speaking in region. School children play outdoors and outdoor workers at risk. Education and preparation at neighborhood levels have not been done until now. According to Power Plant officials, our grid is old and very sensitive to extreme heat and overload.
Preparedness Goal: 
Community Conference: Health Impacts of Climate Change. Work Group: Building Resilient Neighborhoods Workbook: Cohesiveness/ preparation in neighborhoods. Tested with leadership
Implementing Actions: 
  • In Climate Smart Southwest (CSSW), the conference, we Educated the public at large about the health risks of climate change and engaged members of the community, health system and climate scientists to work on solutions to some of the greatest health risks identified by climate experts at the conference.
  • Continue with Work Group efforts to identify the level of preparedness in our community and areas in which greatest need of new work is needed. Found that emergency preparedness guidelines are “Shelter at Home” in face of a climate disaster like an extreme heat event with a power outage.
  • Develop a training handbook that addresses why neighborhood cohesiveness is critical to survival and offer strategies for building same within neighborhoods. Include information about what would happen in the community and to resources with an extreme event. (See – working groups – resilient neighborhoods packet) Also use handbook to educate about heat risk, heat injury signs and symptoms, prevention and safety.
  • Translate all materials in Spanish as well. Provide access on line.
  • Develop neighborhood level strategies for safety and survival in an extreme heat event and offer information on what resources should be available.
  • Test the handbook and ideas with community leaders for acceptance and legitimacy.
  • Train trainers for neighborhood workshops. Make materials for workshops readily available and free.
  • Track which and how many neighborhoods are reached and identify areas of continuing work needed.
  • Develop methods for assessing effectiveness and impact of training workshops
  • Create Community Resource Guide to reinforce preparedness.
Describe Your Solution: 
  • Increases awareness and knowledge about the health risks of climate change in our region. Identifies areas if deficiency in emergency and public health preparedness and action.
  • Offers information, knowledge and skills to individuals and leaders at neighborhood levels to be informed, prepared and plan for actions in the event of an extreme heat emergency.
  • Brings individuals in neighborhoods together to identify the highest risk among them and be ready to help those in emergency situations.
  • Encourages individuals and neighborhood groups to develop plans and identify resources within their own neighborhoods to be able to “Shelter in Place” as the Disaster Preparedness Agencies say they must do.
  • Brings attention to the need for this level of preparedness and encourages the public agencies to adopt and reinforce this level of planning and preparation.
  • Encourages neighbors to communicate more widely about and take action on climate change mitigation and adaptation required for our region and nationally. Creates a model (Building Resilient Neighborhoods) that can be offered in other communities in our region….and perhaps elsewhere….and for other topics of climate change vulnerability.

We raised enough funds from the community and national organizations to be able to fund both the conference and the ongoing work of the Work Group Project. However, more and ongoing funds will be needed for administration and materials.


Created an environment of enthusiastic community leaders who adopted the materials and concepts. Stimulated thinking about new ideas for environmental resilience in neighborhoods (e.g. planting trees, making parks safe and available for cooler places, and thinking more about energy conservation and efficiency.


Building resilient neighborhoods creates cohesive and self helping communities that then can reduce risks of adverse out comes from climate disasters. Improves our communities and communication among it s members. Empowers people to take on these challenges themselves and be more confident about their safety and resilience.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

Big challenge of reaching out to every neighborhood in the community; haven’t gotten there yet. Need for many people to take on the work of outreach and training of neighborhood leaders.

Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

Cost in time: Over 50 hours of meeting and planning time by each of 15-20 people – donated time Cost in dollars for materials:

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

Identifying a strongly committed group of individuals to donate their time and efforts and/or commitment by public officials to devote time and resources to doing this work – ongoing.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

Contest Partners

Contest Sponsors