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Cold emergency declared in Boston for Saturday, January 15

Mayor Wu is sharing safety tips for residents ahead of the brutally cold weather this weekend. BCYF Saturday locations activated as warming centers.

Mayor Michelle Wu has declared a cold emergency in the City of Boston for Saturday, January 15, due to the extreme cold weather that is forecasted for this time period. As the cold weather continues into Sunday, Mayor Wu also urges residents to follow cold weather safety tips throughout the weekend. Boston is forecasted to experience wind chills below zero on Friday, January 14 through Sunday, January 16. BCYF Saturday locations will be activated as warming centers.  

“We’re working quickly to make sure all of our residents and families are protected during this weekend’s extremely cold weather,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I urge all Boston residents to stay warm and safe, and check on your neighbors during this cold emergency.”

Wind chill values will begin dropping Friday night. On Friday, the wind chill is predicted to be as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit, with the cold air staying through Sunday. On Saturday, the wind chill is predicted to be -18 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature this weekend. Due to the low temperatures and strong wind gusts, there is an increased risk for hypothermia and frostbite in vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing homelessness, the elderly, and young children. Cold weather may also exacerbate health issues in high-risk populations.

The current City of Boston cold emergency threshold is 1 day or more of -10°F or below observed wind chill. Additionally, the current City of Boston cold advisory threshold is 1 day or more of 0°F or below observed wind chill.

Mayor Wu is advising residents to take precautions, reminding them to check in on older adults, people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness. If you see homeless and vulnerable individuals out in the cold who appear immobile, disoriented or underdressed for the cold, please call 911. If residents are aware of anyone staying in a vehicle or a place not intended for living during these extreme cold temperatures, they are encouraged to call 911 as well. 

To help residents stay warm, warming centers will open tomorrow at Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ (BCYF) community centers that normally operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. They are also open for pre-registered regular programming. Due to COVID-19 public health regulations, all people entering BCYF community centers must wear a face covering (covering both the nose and mouth) and must sign in and include contact information. Locations can be found at on the BCYF website.

Boston Public Library - Central Library will be open on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. for people in need of a spot to stay warm from and closed Sunday. Other Boston Public Library locations will not be open over the weekend. Visitors to all BPL locations are also required to wear face coverings fully covering nose and mouth. 

Tufts Medical Center and the West End House will be open for COVID-19 testing and accepting walk-ins. Upham's Corner Health Center and Whittier Street Health Center will be open and appointment only. A full list of City testing sites and updated hours can be found online.

The Southampton Street Shelter and Woods Mullen Shelter will remain open 24/7. Amnesty is in effect and anyone with a non-violent restriction may come in. Pine Street Inn’s mobile outreach vehicles will also be out on the street.

The Boston Police Department (BPD) is making announcements on every shift for officers and all personnel to be on the lookout for vulnerable people on the streets. BPD will conduct wellness checks or assist with transportation to available shelters and coordinate with emergency medical personnel for unsheltered homeless persons in distress.The BPD Street Outreach Unit will be available as a resource to assist the districts, outreach providers and 911 dispatch as needed.  

KEY SAFETY TIPS INCLUDE:

Dress for the weather:

  • Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, residents are required to wear face coverings in all indoor public places.
  • Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens over gloves; layering works for your hands as well.
  • Always wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.  
  • Dress children warmly and set reasonable time limits on outdoor play.
  • Restrict infants' outdoor exposure when it is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watch for signs of frostbite:

  • Signs of frostbite include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.

Watch for signs of hypothermia:

  • These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If you or someone you know shows any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare provider immediately. If symptoms are severe, call 911.

Heating guidelines for property owners and tenants:

  • In accordance with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, the heating season officially begins on September 15 and runs through June 15. Property owners must heat habitable spaces at a minimum temperature of 68 degrees between 7 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and 64 degrees between 11:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m.
  • In case of emergency, property owners are encouraged to keep a list of licensed contractors (electrician, plumber and general contractor) on file. Tenants experiencing problems with their heating system should check the thermostat, ensure the dial is turned on, and report insufficient or no heat problems to the property owner or manager immediately.
  • If your landlord or property manager is unresponsive, call 311 to file a complaint.

Heating safety:

  • Never try to heat your home using a charcoal or gas grill, a kitchen stove, or other product not specifically designed as a heater. These can cause a fire or produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide very quickly. 
  • Have your heating system cleaned and checked annually.
  • Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas produced whenever any fuel is burned. Common sources include oil or gas furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and some space heaters. It has no smell, taste, or color. It is poisonous and can be deadly.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including people.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room, or go to bed.

Tips to keep water flowing and pipes unfrozen during extreme cold:

  • The Boston Water and Sewer Commission recommends homeowners locate a home's main water shut off valve, and learn how to use it. Should a frozen pipe burst, shutting the main valve quickly will minimize flooding and property damage.
  • Homeowners should insulate pipes in unheated areas like basements, garages and crawl spaces. Use inexpensive hardware store materials to prevent pipes from freezing and to keep warm water flowing.
  • Circulate warm air around pipes by keeping cabinet doors open. Circulate a trickle of tap water through pipes during extreme cold to help prevent them freezing up.
  • Locate your water meter, protect it from drafts, and make sure basement doors and windows are shut tight.
  • If pipes do freeze, slowly thaw them with a hair dryer, if possible. Never use an open flame to thaw pipes. If water is lost in all taps, call BWSC 24-hour Emergency Assistance Line at 617-989-7000.

Emergency home repair resources: 

  • Income-eligible homeowners and Boston's residents over age 60 can receive assistance with winter emergencies and repairs, such as fixing storm damage, leaking roofs, furnaces and leaking/frozen pipes. For assistance, residents should call the Mayor's hotline at 311 or the Boston Home Center at 617-635-HOME (4663).   
  • In addition, the Mayor's Seniors Save program helps income eligible Bostonians over the age of 60 replace old, inefficient heating systems with a brand new heating system, even before a failure occurs during the cold winter months. Older adults can also call 311 or the Boston Home Center at 617-635-HOME (4663) to be connected with a City staffer to provide additional details.   

For alerts, including cold-weather alerts, residents are encouraged to sign up for Alert Boston. For more information, please visit the Winter in Boston guide and follow @CityofBoston on Twitter.

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