The case raises the question of whether city employees should have done more to inquire about his welfare.
PHOENIX — After 2021 heat-related death, City of Phoenix defends employee training
A county medical examiner’s report shows that last July, City of Phoenix employees at the Steele Indian School grounds observed a man “rolling” and “appearing asleep” on the concrete between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
The outside temperature at the time was around 105 degrees. Employees later told investigators that “the man did not appear to be in distress.”
An hour after the employees passed him, another passing citizen also noticed the man and called 911. Minutes after paramedics arrived, the man was pronounced dead.
The preliminary cause of death was heat-related, according to the report.
The man was unidentified and described as a passenger. According to the report, his “left foot looked bloody and burned from the sidewalk.”
A pair of pants was nearby. “It appears he took them off in an effort to calm himself down,” the report said.
Heat activist Stacey Champion, who tracks heat-related deaths in Phoenix, says the case raises questions about whether city workers should have done more to inquire about her well-being.
“In my opinion, it is critical that the City of Phoenix educate every employee on what heat illness and heatstroke look like. How do you take care of people? When do you call 911? All of those things,” Champion said.
The city tells 12 News that the workers who observed the man were part-time park employees who worked indoors and outdoors. In an apparent defense of the employees’ actions, City of Phoenix Communications Manager Dan Wilson noted that, according to the report, employees observed no signs of distress.
“Park employees are trained to provide assistance to park users, including calling for medical assistance or public safety when someone is in distress,” Wilson said.
The case raises the larger question of what someone should do if they observe an unprotected individual lying on the ground or sleeping when temperatures are excessively hot.
Phoenix Fire Captain Rob McDade did not comment on this particular case, but said each scenario was different.
“Generally, if a citizen encounters someone exposed to the sun on an excessively hot day who appears to be sleeping or lying down, it is recommended that they be watched,” McDade said. “If the citizen is not comfortable contacting the person directly, dial 911.”
“Calls for social assistance are one of the most common calls that Phoenix firefighters respond to. We will be there if called upon,” he added.
McDade expects the city to have a busy summer with Arizona’s growing homeless population.
According to the CDC, temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heat cramps, exhaustion, heatstroke and fainting. Risk factors include people who use substances, are over the age of 65, and are overweight.