Extreme cold consists of temperatures significantly lower than normal and can cause a number of health and safety concerns, including frostbite, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning and fires from alternative heating sources.

When the outside temperature is extremely low, take these precautions:

• Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles; keep such devices away from all flammable materials.
• Install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (at least one of each per floor in your home).
• Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
• Do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills, that produce carbon monoxide indoors.
• Stay dry and in wind protected areas outdoors.
• Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear mittens, a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
• Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and eat high-caloric foods.
• Watch for signs of frostbite-skin appears white and waxy, numbness or no feeling in that area and/or possible blisters.
• Watch for signs of hypothermia-shivering and numbness, confusion or dizziness, stumbling and weakness, slow or slurred speech and shock.
• Go to a medical facility immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing signs of hypothermia or frostbite.
• Call the Hypothermia Hotline at 1 (800) 535-7252 if you see a homeless person stranded in the cold. Vans will transport homeless individuals to a shelter.

District residents who see or know an individual or family who is homeless can call the District's hypothermia helpline at 1-800-535-7252. Residents can also call 311 to be connected to the proper services for people who are homeless in extreme cold.

The District government, through the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), declares a hypothermia alert when the temperature reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including the wind chill. Extreme cold can cause significant impacts to individuals residing in facilities without adequate heat and for those living on the streets.

District agencies will activate their internal plans to ensure their residents, employees, and the public are protected against extreme cold. Residents and visitors are encouraged to stay indoors or find a public facility available for warming. DC Public Library (DCPL) branches, some DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) facilities, and the District of Columbia Office on Aging's (DCOA) Senior Wellness Centers are all places where the District government encourages residents in need to stay warm; they are open to the public during normal business hours:

• For a list of DCPL locations and operating hours: http://www.dclibrary.org/hours-locations
• For a list of DPR recreation centers and hours: http://dpr.dc.gov/page/recreation-centers
• For a list of DCOA Senior Wellness Centers: http://dcoa.dc.gov/service/senior-wellness-centers

If major power outages occur throughout the city, HSEMA may activate a DPR site as an emergency warming shelter for that neighborhood or area. Emergency warming shelters are overnight shelters open for the number of people affected by the cold emergency with sleeping cots, food, snacks and additional assistance provided as needed.

Pets should also be brought indoors during hypothermia alerts. To report cruelty, neglect and animal emergencies 24 hours a day, call the Washington Humane Society at 202.723.5730.

For more information on ways to prepare for, and respond to, extreme cold, please visit:http://hsema.dc.gov/page/extreme-weather-cold.

For extreme cold weather response information and other weather-related disaster response information inEnglish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, please visit here. Please monitor the page for extreme cold weather information in Chinese and Korean as soon as it is available.

Last modified: 12/22/2014 8:25:48 PM