More people die from heat-related illnesses than from tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and lightning combined. But what can you do about it? The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) has the answer: Follow the guidelines for staying safe from the heat, use the network of water and shade stations offered throughout the Valley, or help others by donating water through the region’s Heat Relief Network. The Heat Relief Network is coordinated by MAG and involves dozens of partnering agencies, including cities and towns, businesses, and nonprofit organizations throughout Maricopa County. From May to September, partnering agencies donate space, time and cases of bottled water to help keep residents safe from Arizona’s brutal heat. But in 2020, the network is facing challenges due to COVID-19. “Water donations are significantly down this year, and we don’t have as many partners participating in the network as previous years,” said MAG Human Services Director Brande Mead. “We believe this is due to the pandemic. Some facility buildings have been closed and are not able to participate in the Heat Relief Network at this time.” In 2020, there are 64 heat relief stations across the region offering water and refuge, compared to 163 locations last year. There are 42 collection locations across the region accepting donations of water and other resources, compared to 90 sites last year. Maps of the locations can be found at azmag.gov/Programs/Homelessness/Heat-Relief-Regional-Network . Yet another challenge is ensuring the locations follow guidelines for operating safely during the pandemic. “The CDC has issued guidance for cooling centers and COVID-19. We have shared that guidance with our partners and encouraged them to follow the guidance at all sites and stations throughout the summer,” said Mead. Nearly 2,000 people visit Arizona’s emergency rooms every year due to heat-related illnesses. In 2019, there were 196 heat-related deaths in the state, the highest number in years and the continuation of an alarming trend in the region. Follow these tips to avoid deadly heat: Increase fluid intake regardless of activity level. Staying hydrated is extremely important. Limit exercise or outdoor activity between the hours of 11 a.m and 3 p.m. Never leave adults, children or pets inside a parked vehicle. When outdoors, wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 and reapply often. Wear a hat, lightweight clothing and sunglasses. Rest frequently in shady or cool areas to give the body’s temperature a chance to recover and cool down. Respectfully check on elderly neighbors to make sure their air conditioning is working and in use. Take advantage of free air-conditioning by visiting locations like shopping malls, the library or other heat refuge locations provided on the map. The heat relief sites will remain open until September 2020.