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  4. Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks at #SummerReady Extreme Heat Summit

Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks at #SummerReady Extreme Heat Summit

Release Date: April 29, 2024

Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at the virtual #SummerReady Extreme Heat Summit.

Victoria, thanks so much – thanks for the incredible work you do every day, and thanks to all of you for giving me a chance to share some thoughts.

You know, here in Washington and across the country, it has been a beautiful spring week. We do not expect it to remain so for long, though. Last summer was the hottest in our recorded history, across our Hemisphere and the entire planet. Experts from the National Weather Service report a one-in-three chance that this summer’s temperatures will be even hotter, as Victoria mentioned. They also report, with 99 percent certainty, that this summer will, at the very least, be one of the five hottest on record. Already, this past February was the hottest recorded February ever.

When we talk about climate change-driven extreme heat, we are no longer talking about what could happen. Rather, we are talking about what has happened, and what will happen again.

As we commemorated Earth Day on Monday, the consequences of these hot summers were top of mind for all of us here at the Department of Homeland Security. As soon as the thermometer hits 90, the temperature technically defined as “extreme heat,” everything from our bodies to our critical infrastructure stops behaving normally. Just 15 minutes in that heat can cause one’s core temperature to spike, leading to headaches, nausea, heat stroke, and even neurological damage. Extreme heat is now the number one weather-related cause of death in the United States, killing about 700 people every year. Extreme heat causes crops to stop growing. Labor productivity falls by 25 percent. More people crank up the air conditioning to stay cool, severely taxing the power grid. Steel railroad tracks expand and warp, and roads and airport runways buckle and crack. This curtails our ability to surge resources to communities in need, compounding extreme heat’s already severe human cost.

90 degrees is not a day at the beach. It is a breaking point – one that nearly every community can expect to reach in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Look no further than last summer: On a Thursday in late July, four out of every five Americans faced heat indexes of at least 90 degrees. Every corner of the country was impacted: In Boston, Massachusetts, the high temperature was 91 degrees. In Pierre, South Dakota, it was 98 degrees. In Phoenix, Arizona, the temperature hit 115 degrees.

The DHS workforce, including FEMA and its phenomenal Administrator, Deanne Criswell, from whom you will hear in a few minutes, and our partners across the Administration, will continue to be there in your community’s moments of need. But mitigating the impacts of such extreme heat requires all of us, across every level of government and throughout the private sector, to work together, closely and to strategically, to invest now in preparedness and resilience.

That is why we have convened this summit – the first of a series of Extreme Heat preparedness summits we will be hosting this spring. We are bringing leaders together to help streamline communication and coordination, to help cut through red tape, and to help get resources out to every community and every organization that needs them.

These resources range from our first-of-its-kind Extreme Heat resource guide, which provides a best practices roadmap for communities to develop extreme heat risk-assessment and response plans, to our Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, grants, which help fund climate-smart construction projects, backup generators, cooling centers, and more. Boosted by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, last year we awarded $1.8 billion in such grants, a true lifeline for communities across the country. My colleagues will detail these projects, and future funding opportunities, over the next 90 minutes.

These resources, and many others, can all be accessed at Heat.gov, our site for government leaders, local stakeholders, emergency managers, and individuals working to keep themselves and their communities safe when the mercury climbs.

Just as important, this summit is an opportunity for each of us to connect with and learn from one other.

What are the impacts of extreme heat that you are already seeing in your communities? What have you already done to help mitigate the impact of extreme heat? What steps are your hospitals, power grids, schools, youth sports leagues, and community centers already taking to prepare for the summer months ahead? How can other local leaders take your efforts and adapt them to fit the unique needs of their own communities?

Homeland Security is fundamentally an exercise in partnerships, and when it comes to extreme heat, the impact of our work together can be measured in lives saved and tragedies averted.

I am grateful to each of you for taking the time to join this summit, for lending us your lived experience, for your continued partnership, and your commitment to ensuring the health, safety, strength, and resilience of our country. I hope you find the Summit enriching. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of it.


Last Updated: 04/29/2024
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