City Of Philadelphia Responds To Bitterly Cold Weather

The City of Philadelphia prepared for the frigid weather today and expected tomorrow with a coordinated response across City departments.

“Over the next few days, as we deal with the blustery, freezing weather together, I want to encourage citizens to stay indoors – wherever you may be – limit your exposure to the elements, keep warm, check in on your elderly neighbors and practice safe home heating,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  “Most importantly, if you see someone in need, contact the appropriate authorities for help.”

The Office of Supportive Housing earlier implemented its Winter Initiative Plan, which expands existing emergency housing capacity for families with children and single adults by using Cafes, a recreation center and other housing resources.

Last night, the expanded winter beds served 259 adults and family members.  There are currently 92 adult single vacancies in the expanded winter capacity.

The OSH’s Cafés were at full capacity last night, serving 172 people.  Due to the severe cold weather, OSH’s Cafes have extended its hours and will remain open throughout the day, providing warm drinks, snacks and a warm, indoor location.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services, in partnership with 5 non-profit organizations, sent out 12 City of Philadelphia Street Outreach Teams to engage individuals experiencing homelessness and connect them to resources to ensure their safety and end their homelessness.

The teams contacted more than 100 individuals (contact is unique though multiple contacts were made for some individuals to guarantee safety).  Of the 100 individuals who were contacted by the outreach teams, 31 accepted placement, including 14 who went to a shelter.  The Project Home Outreach Hotline received 81 calls.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections will prioritize “no heat” complaints.  Once L&I receives a no heat complaint, an inspector will travel to the complaint location and verify the complaint claim.  If the home is found to have no heat and that the heat would be unable to be restored quickly, L&I will work with other agencies to assist the tenant in finding appropriate shelter.

In addition, L&I inspectors are actively looking for heat sources that could pose a fire danger.  Yesterday, an inspector saw a propane tank sitting on a West Philadelphia home’s porch roof.  The propane tank had a hose running from it into the second floor of the home, creating a potentially dangerous situation.  L&I contacted a hazardous materials crew, which disconnected and removed the tank.

To prevent residual moisture from the rain and melting snow from freezing on road surfaces, the Streets Department salted both the primary and secondary street network last night.  Extra salt crews will be on stand-by tonight to treat roads that may become icy.

The Streets Department has received approximately 30 reports of malfunctioning traffic signals.  Residents are encouraged to use caution while traveling and to report malfunctioning traffic lights to 311.

Due to the extreme low temperatures and recent weather events, sanitation collections will be delayed throughout the week.  Citizens should put out their trash and recycling on their regularly scheduled pick up day in their normal locations.  Trash not collected on its regularly scheduled day will be picked up the following day.

The Philadelphia Fire Department experienced a moderate increase in EMS related responses from 9:00 p.m. last night through 12:00 p.m. today.  There was also a significant increase in the number of non-EMS emergency responses including alarm systems, outside wires and heaters/furnaces.  No major fires occurred during the increased response period.

As a precaution, the Fire Department has upgraded all structural fire dispatches to include additional responding units due to the operational difficulties associated with temperature and wind extremes.

The Philadelphia Water Department will continue to work to address any water-related issues including distribution crew working staggered 12-hour shifts.  Water Department crews are currently working on 8 main breaks.

The Department of Human Services hotline will remain fully staffed and operational 24 hours a day to take reports of abuse and neglect from citizens.

In addition, City of Philadelphia departments have compiled a list of helpful cold weather tips for citizens.

Citizens should contact the Project Home Outreach Hotline (215-232-1984) if they observe a homeless person(s) in need of assistance.  During the call, citizens should provide the address, location and description of the person in need.

Keep Warm and avoid Hypothermia & Frostbite: You should do everything you can to keep your body warm.  Dress in several layers and cover as much skin as possible if you go outside. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.  Set your thermostat to 68˚ F or higher; if you have no heat due to a power outage, try to stay with a friend, relative or neighbor.  Check on children and seniors to ensure they are dressed properly and have adequate heat in their homes.

Winter-Proof Your Home: Residents can take steps to avoid expensive plumbing repairs, costly damage to personal property stored in unheated areas, and keep the water flowing freely in their home in the winter by following these easy-to-do tips to maintain home water systems:

  • Shut off outside water faucets from the inside valves. To drain these faucets, leave the outside valves open.
  • Keep the area around your water meter above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wrap your water meter and its connecting pipe with insulation.
  • Caulk windows near water meters or pipes. Cover these windows with plastic.
  • Replace or cover cracked or broken windows.
  • Wrap and insulate all water pipes in unheated areas such as sheds, under kitchen floors, and in garages.
  • Let water trickle overnight in extremely cold weather to keep your pipes

from freezing.

  • If the water service line or other internal pipes freeze or break, call a plumber to thaw the frozen water in the service line or to repair the damaged or broken pipe.

If you don’t have water in your home, check with your neighbors to determine if there is an issue with the pipes in your home, or if there may be a bigger problem with a City pipe.  If many people do not have water on your block, call 3-1-1 or the Water Department to report the issue.

Prevent Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Many fires and emergencies happen every year in Philadelphia because of faulty heating units. Call the Department of Licenses and Inspections at 215-686-2463 for a fire inspection if you are unsure whether your heat source is safe.  If you rent and do not have heat, contact your building owner. If your heat does not come back on within a reasonable time, contact the Department of Licenses and Inspections at 215-686-2463.

Use electric heaters with extreme caution to prevent shock, fire and burns. Keep items at least three feet from heat sources, to help prevent fire.  Never use a gas oven or burner to heat your home.

The Philadelphia Fire Code permits the use of portable kerosene heaters only in one and two family dwellings.  Portable propane heaters can only be use outdoors.  Keep heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including furniture, bedding, clothing, pets, and people.  Only use space heaters to heat a room. Never use them to cook food, dry clothes or heat water for humidification.  Always keep portable heaters away from the entrance to rooms, in case you need to get out quickly.  Don’t use extension cords with electric heaters.  If you must use an extension cord, only use a properly rated extension cord that doesn’t get hot when in use at the highest setting.

Always have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in rooms where you sleep, especially when using portable heaters. Test the smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector to make sure they are working properly.  You should have at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home and in each bedroom.

Keep Your Pets Safe and Warm This Winter Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

Stay informed

  • Tune to local news for weather updates.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts, weather updates, and transportation delays from ReadyNotifyPA at
  • For more winter weather tips, visit the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management online at  You can also follow @PhilaOEM on Twitter or find them on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Blogspot.
  • Other City Twitter accounts to follow for information: @PhiladelphiaGov; @Philly311; @PhilaStreets; @PhillyPolice; and @PhillyFireDept.
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