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Mayor Walsh issues tips ahead of bitterly cold weather

December 14, 2016

Mayor's Office

Published by:

Mayor's Office

Forecasters are predicting an Arctic plunge on Thursday night into Friday, with wind chills reaching 16 degrees below zero.

BOSTON - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced a set of tips and guidelines in advance of this week's forecast of bitterly cold weather. Forecasters are predicting an Arctic plunge on Thursday night into Friday, with wind chills reaching 16 degrees below zero. The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch, as wind gusts will be strongest between 6 p.m. Thursday night to 4 a.m. Friday morning, reaching up to 60 miles per hour. Low temperatures on Thursday night will be three degrees. With the wind chill, frostbite can occur within 30 minutes.

"We want to make make sure each and every Boston resident will be safe and warm when bitterly cold weather arrives this week," said Mayor Walsh. "In times like these, it's vital for residents to look out for one another, and I encourage all Bostonians to reach out to the City if they or their neighbors need help this winter season. City workers will be constantly vigilant to ensure the safety of all."

Mayor Walsh asks all residents to take precautions and exercise care during the single-digit low temperatures. He encourages residents to check on neighbors who are elderly or disabled; be mindful of homeless individuals who may need assistance; and practice caution with space heaters.

For emergency alerts, including cold-weather alerts, residents are encouraged to sign up for Alert Boston. For questions or additional information, call the City's resident services hotline, 311, or visit boston.gov/cold. Homelessness services are also available on Boston.gov. Follow the City on Twitter for additional information and safety tips: @BOS311 and @CityofBoston.

Key safety tips include:

Preventing Hypothermia and Frostbite

Dress for the weather:

  • 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:

  • These 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, get in touch with a healthcare provider immediately. If symptoms are severe, call 911.
Heating Safety
  • Never try to heat your home using a charcoal or gas grill, the 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. Using faulty or improper heating sources is the number two cause of home fires in Massachusetts.
  • 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 (CO) 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 a poison and is deadly.

Homelessness

  • If you see homeless individuals out in the cold who appear immobile, disoriented or underdressed for the cold, please call 911.
  • The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) coordinates a city-wide network of emergency shelters, outreach providers, city agencies and first responders to assist those in need of shelter.
  • Emergency shelters are open 24 hours and will accept any person in need.  Men can access shelters through 112 Southampton Street, and women should go to the Woods-Mullen Shelter at 794 Massachusetts Ave. BPHC and the City are working closely with shelter providers to ensure that no client is without shelter, food, resources, and a warm respite from the cold.
  • Emergency shelters are open 24 hours and will accept any person in need.  
  • During extreme cold weather, street outreach teams operate with extended hours and provide mobile outreach vans on the streets in the evening and throughout the day.

Heat 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° between 7 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and 64° 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, contact the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) at (617) 635-5300 to file a complaint, or call 311.  

Tips to keep water flowing and pipes unfrozen during extreme cold

  • The Boston Water and Sewer Commission recommends that during the upcoming cold snap homeowners remember the words locate, insulate, and circulate.
  • 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.
  • 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, slow thaw with a hair dryer. If water is lost in all taps, call BWSC 24-hour Emergency Assistance Line at 617-989-7000.     

Increasing Home Energy Efficiency

  • Disconnect water hose from the home.
  • Wrap or cover exposed spigots.
  • Caulk or putty windows.
  • Ensure kitchen and bathroom dampers close properly.
  • Close all storm windows and doors.
  • Apply weather stripping.
  • Properly insulate all pipes that are exposed.
  • Cover vents.
  • Install insulated or heavy drapes to keep cold drafts from coming in.
  • Don't forget to close the damper to wood burning fireplace after each use. Consider a chimney balloon if you don't have a damper.
  • For more energy efficiency tips for your home, call Renew Boston at 617-635-SAVE (7283).

Emergency Home Repair

  • Income eligible homeowners and Boston's seniors 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).   
  • A grant up to $5,000 is available for income eligible senior homeowners to ease unexpected financial burdens caused by an emergency situation with their home.
  • In addition, the Mayor's Seniors Save program helps elders replace old, inefficient heating systems with a new brand new heating system even before a catastrophic failure occurs during the cold winter months.  Seniors 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.

Emergency Operations

  • The City of Boston Office of Emergency Management (OEM) remains in constant contact with the National Weather Service to receive detailed forecasts for the City of Boston. It also ensures each City department has a plan in place to handle the forecast. If the storm warrants, the City's Emergency Operations Center will be activated and City representatives will coordinate response and recovery efforts.
  • Year round, OEM conducts preparedness seminars to educate the public on the importance of having an emergency preparedness plan and a bag of emergency supplies in the event that Boston residents have to shelter in place or leave their residence.
  • Residents who sign up for notifications will receive a message from the City about winter storms and extreme cold weather. This notification system also alerts residents when a snow emergency/parking ban is in effect and when it is being lifted.