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Preparations for winter weather announced

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Public Works

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined City officials at the Public Works yard on Frontage Road to discuss winter preparations currently underway in the City of Boston, and resources available to residents. 

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined City officials at the Public Works yard on Frontage Road to discuss winter preparations currently underway in the City of Boston, and resources available to residents. 

"The most important thing we can do every winter is be prepared, before, during and after every storm," said Mayor Walsh. "As a City, our top priority is to keep our residents safe, and during the winter season, I'm asking each and every resident to stay alert, and look after your family, friends and neighbors, especially those who may be isolated or have health concerns. The City of Boston is ready to tackle any weather that comes our way, and I encourage residents to take advantage of the resources the City has to keep you informed, safe and prepared."

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The Public Works Department (PWD) currently has 48,000 tons of salt on-hand to treat City streets. Along with 110 pieces of in-house snow clearing equipment, the Public Works Department has the capability to place over 600 additional pieces on the roads during larger storms. As part of their neighborhood plowing operations during winter storms and to ensure the safety of riders, the Public Works Department allocates pieces of equipment to clear snow from Boston's dedicated bike lanes. 

Rules on Clearing Snow:
  • Property owners must fully clear snow, sleet and ice from sidewalks and curb ramps abutting the property within three hours after the snowfall ends or three hours after sunrise if the snow ends overnight. Curb and pedestrian ramps to the street should be cleared fully and continually over the duration of the storm to ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities. If a storm will last over an extended period of time, property owners are asked to continually check ramps abutting their property for compliance. Failure to comply can result in a fine issued by PWD's Code Enforcement Division. 
  • Removal of snow, ice from a private property to the street or sidewalk is prohibited and can result in a fine issued by PWD's Code Enforcement Division.
  • Do not throw snow onto the street. Fines associated with improper removal of snow can be found here.
  • Remove space savers within 48 hours after a snow emergency has been lifted. Please note: space savers are NOT allowed in the South End.
Safety Tips:
  • Remember to keep catch basins and fire hydrants clear. For a map of catch basins and fire hydrants, visit the Boston Water and Sewer Commission site.
  • Shoveling snow requires significant exertion; please be cautious and pay attention to symptoms. Stop if you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheaded, nauseous/vomiting. Call 911 if those symptoms do not resolve quickly when you stop exertion.
  • Snow piles can make navigating intersections dangerous for walkers and drivers, please take extra care when turning corners with snow piles that might limit visibility.
  • Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a concern during winter weather, especially with the use of generators. Residents should be sure to use their home heating systems wisely and safely, and have a working carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Call 911 immediately if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Sitting in a car while idling can be deadly if the tailpipe is blocked. Do not let children sit in an idling car while shoveling. Clear any household exhaust pipes of snow. For example, gas exhaust from heating system or dryer.
  • Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those with disabilities.
  • Have a contractor check the roof to see if snow needs to be removed. If roof snow can be removed from the ground with the use of a snow-rake, do so with caution. Avoid working from ladders and be mindful of slippery surfaces. 
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.
Vulnerable Populations
  • If you see homeless and vulnerable 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.
  • Boston's emergency shelters are open 24 hours and will accept any person in need.  Men can access shelter at the 112 Southampton Street Shelter, and women should go to the Woods-Mullen Shelter at 794 Massachusetts Ave. BPHC and the City are working closely with shelter providers in the city to ensure that no client is without shelter, food, resources, and a warm respite from the cold.
  • 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 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).   
  • A grant up to $5,000 is available for income eligible homeowners over age 60 to ease unexpected financial burdens caused by an emergency situation with their home.
  • In addition, the Mayor's Seniors Save program helps income eligible Bostonians over the age of 60 replace old, inefficient heating systems with a new brand new heating system even before a catastrophic 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.
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.
  • 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.
Trash and Recycling 
  • During severe snowstorms, recycling and trash collection may be canceled, but this is extremely rare. Most often, severe snowstorms can cause delays in service, so we ask for your cooperation and patience. To view your neighborhood recycling and trash schedule and to find out what items you CAN and CAN'T recycle, please visit check out the Trash Day App.
  • Crews have a difficult time reaching trash barrels and recycling carts placed behind snowbanks. Please clear an area at the curb for collection or place containers next to or in front of snowbanks.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency notifications through AlertBoston and utilize the 311 call center for non-emergency related issues. To get news about snow emergencies, parking bans, school delays and cancellations, please visit the Winter in Boston guide and follow @CityofBoston on Twitter.