January 26, 2014

Extreme Cold And Blustery Conditions Expected Through Tuesday

City Officials Urge Caution and Again Expand Warming Center Hours and Outreach

With temperatures plummeting again to below zero in Chicago, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) continues to warn against the dangers of frigid temperatures, strong winds and accumulating snow, and the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) is again extending its warming center hours and working with homeless shelters to provide 24 hour access during the extreme cold.

"Residents should take precautions in advance of extreme cold, and we remind people to drive cautiously, as well as use safe methods of heating and keeping warm in order to safeguard themselves and others against accidents, fires and other emergency situations,” said Gary Schenkel, Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Weather forecasts predict additional snow this weekend and very cold temperatures continuing, especially on Monday and Tuesday.  Blowing snow and blustery conditions are also expected, and multiple departments and agencies will be working to provide a constant assessment of the situation across the city to ensure the safety of residents:

In response to the anticipated sub-zero temperatures forecast for Monday and Tuesday, DFSS will extend hours at its six Regional Warming Centers from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m on Monday and Tuesday. Hours will also be extended on Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the six Regional Senior Centers operated by DFSS for the exclusive use of Chicago’s Seniors. Additionally, DFSS is working with shelter providers to have them stay open continuously from intake on Sunday evening through Wednesday morning.

"We are extending our warming center hours to ensure that those who need a warm, safe place to go during Monday and Tuesday’s extreme cold weather will have one,” said DFSS Evelyn J. Diaz. “We also realize that there will be some who will refuse to come in from the cold, so we will work with our homeless services allies to step-up our street outreach to serve these residents.”

DFSS is working with Catholic Charities to expand mobile outreach staffing on Monday and Tuesday to provide for increased numbers of well-being checks, shelter placements and transportation requests to shelters and warming centers. DFSS is also working with delegate agencies to extend outreach to the homeless and place a greater emphasis on nighttime and overnight hours when it will be the coldest and when people on the streets will be at the greatest risk.

Those needing a warming center, overnight shelter or transportation to either can call 3-1-1 for assistance.  We remind residents to check on elderly, disabled or sheltered relatives and neighbors and assist others shoveling walks.  Traveling in low visibility weather and the need to keep warm can create emergency situations, if caution is not exercised.

The Chicago Department of Public Health reminds residents to take extra precautions to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Residents should avoid unnecessary trips outside, and if it is necessary to go outside, wear several loose fitting layers of warm clothing. When shoveling snow, work slowly and take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion.

As residents try to stay warm inside, they should keep in mind that the Chicago Fire Department does not recommend the use of space heaters, however, should they be used, officials urge caution to minimize the risk of fires.  Be sure heaters are UL-certified, not used with extension cords, are placed at least three feet of anything that can burn and are monitored closely for overheating and potential problems.

Fire officials also encourage residents to check to ensure their carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. With furnaces running during normal cold weather, a small carbon monoxide leak might not be noticed, but with heaters running non-stop to match the extreme cold, that small leak could become a deadly source of fumes.

To prevent water pipes from freezing, the Department of Water Management urges residents to run a trickle of water in their homes to keep water moving. If residents lose water service due to frozen pipes, they should never use an open flame to thaw the pipes, as frozen pipes may be close to gas lines or other hazards. Instead, use a heating pad or hair dryer to gradually thaw a frozen pipe, or call 3-1-1.

Additional tips for winter weather preparedness and response can be found at www.AlertChicago.com

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