PITTSBURGH – With extreme cold weather in the forecast in the coming days, Allegheny County officials, along with the City of Pittsburgh, outlined the preparations that they have made and also offered tips and information for residents.
“With the activation of the Emergency Operations Center, we are ready to respond to anything that we may see from this severe cold weather,” said Chief Alvin Henderson of the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services. “Outside medical emergency calls will be increased in priority with automatic aide from fire and police first responders. Additionally, the Port Authority and County Hazmat is ready to assist with buses as warming stations, or warming tents, for emergency responders if needed. Warming centers and shelters will also be opened as determined in consultation with local emergency management coordinators.”
The Department of Emergency Services will be coordinating with all emergency management coordinators throughout the county to provide response and assistance as needed. While there are 130 municipalities in the county, Pittsburgh is the largest and sees a large influx of population each day as people travel into the City for work. City of Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss has prepared the public safety bureaus and related departments to respond to the dangerously cold weather.
“Our region has not experienced this degree of extreme cold for over 20 years, and I have directed our officers and safety officials to not only prepare themselves for the cold weather, but be ready to respond,” said Huss. “We are prepared for this weather, but we need all citizens to cooperate by recognizing the danger and using extreme caution.”
The City’s 3-1-1 Response Line will extend its hours of operation to 10:00 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday night. Pittsburgh Police will be visiting known homeless camps and transporting homeless residents to a severe weather emergency shelter. Animal Control staff will be out ensuring animals are safe and citing pet owners if necessary. The City will also open five warming centers from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday:
Greenfield Healthy Active Living Center, 745 Greenfield Avenue (Phone: 412-422-6551)
Homewood Healthy Active Living Center, 7321 Frankstown Avenue (Phone: 412-244-4190)
N Side, Allegheny Center Healthy Active Living Center, Allegheny Square (Phone: 412-323-7329)
Sheraden Healthy Active Living Center, 720 Sherwood Avenue (Phone: 412-777-5012)
South Side Healthy Active Living Center, 12th and Bingham Streets (Phone: 412-488-8404)
Chief Henderson encouraged residents to prepare themselves for extreme weather by creating an emergency kit which includes enough food, water, medicine and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones could be affected by the weather, so a supplies kit should contain items to help during such outages. Chief Henderson also told residents to consider sufficient heating fuel if using a secondary source of heat, and also ensure that there is adequate clothing and blankets to keep warm.
Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department, urged residents to take precautions to protect themselves and their health during this weather: “Stay indoors as much as possible. If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. Wear mittens, wear a hat, and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.”
For those who must be outdoors, Dr. Hacker also cautioned that they watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can occur within 30 minutes at a wind chill temperature of -19, within ten minutes at -33 and within five minutes at -48. Hypothermia, when the body’s temperature drops below 95 degrees, It can occur indoors. If you can’t maintain a house temperature of 70 degrees, dress warmly and use blankets and hats to keep warm, especially for infants, the elderly and the chronically ill.
The Department of Human Services has paid particular attention to the elderly as its Area Agency on Aging has reached out to many of its clients to ensure they are prepared, “I urge all residents to check on their neighbors to make sure they are safe during this cold weather,” said Director Marc Cherna. “Especially during a power outage, the lack of electrical power can present dangers that are particularly challenging for the young, old, and ill in our community. Ensure their homes are well-heated and that they have enough food, water and medication to last for several days.”
All of the officials encouraged residents to listen to local news channels for critical information about the weather and to be alert to changes. If public shelters are opened, such information will be provided online and through the media, as well as through local emergency management coordinators. Even as the temperatures rise beginning Wednesday, people are urged to continue to protect themselves from frostbite and hypothermia.
Chief Henderson reminded residents that they should call 9-1-1 immediately from any wired or wireless phone in an emergency. An emergency is any situation which requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or medical professionals. If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, call 9-1-1 and the call-taker will determine whether you need emergency help.
Director Cherna also referred residents to PA 2-1-1 Southwest, a free resource and information hub that connects people with community, health and disaster services in eleven counties through a 24/7 confidential phone service (2-1-1) and its website (www.pa211sw.org).
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