Getting out of the cold in Philly

by Stella Vallon, Maria Utz, Kiara Santos

Winter has begun in Philly and forecasters are predicting a temperature drop to as low as 10  degrees this weekend. The team at Resolve Philly wanted to provide some tips on how to prepare and what to do if you find yourself in need of a place to get out of the cold. 

Emergency temporary shelter

Philly declares a Code Blue when it is 32 degrees with precipitation, or if it is below 20 degrees. During Code Blues, the city provides extra beds at all of the shelters and emergency transportation to those shelters. Also shelters that typically force people to leave during the day don’t do so during the emergency. You can find a full list here of shelters. Here is a list of pet-friendly shelters in Philadelphia. For emergency transportation to a shelter, call 215-232-1984. This is a free hotline operated by the city, through Project HOME. During the emergency outreach workers are scheduled to work around the clock offering shelter to people they encounter living outside.

Another option when it’s not a holiday

If you’re not interested in going to a shelter or are just looking for a place you can be warm without having to buy anything, the Free Library of Philadelphia is normally an option. Seeking refuge in the library will be less helpful this holiday weekend since branches, and even the Parkway branch are closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Monday when the federal holiday is observed. But on more typical days branches are open five to eight hours a day, depending on the branch and day of the week. You can find your closest neighborhood library and its hours at or by calling 1-833-TALK-FLP.

You have a home, but no heat

If you have an apartment or rental home and your heat isn’t working, our partners at the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a handy piece detailing what landlords are required to do. If you own your place or you rent, the LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance) Program can help you pay your home heating bill. Call 215-560-1583 to get an application. PECO’s Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services (CARES) can be reached at 800-774-7040 to find out if you qualify for assistance with your heating bill. 

Warning signs of cold emergencies

If you cannot utilize these resources or do not wish to, here are some tips for outdoor safety, as well as how to spot hypothermia and frostbite. With the rough weather, most of the danger comes from wind exposure or dampness. When outside, do your best to cover your mouth and face as much as possible, keeping the cold air out of your lungs. It is also important to wear loose, layered clothing and to keep your skin covered. If your clothing is wet, remove and replace it if possible. Wet cotton clothing will sap heat from your body instead of insulating it. Additionally, drinking warm liquids (not alcohol) and avoiding strenuous activity can be helpful. We encourage people to consider tapping into the resources above instead of remaining outside in harsh winter conditions.  

Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition and it is important to take symptoms seriously. In fact, many people do not know that they have it and do not take action until it is too late. Here are the primary symptoms: uncontrollable shivering, confusion and sleepiness, slurred speech, and slow reactions. These symptoms look different on everyone, if you suspect hypothermia it’s urgent to get somewhere warm immediately. 

Frostbite is another dangerous condition that arises from extreme weather. When experiencing this, the extremities(fingers, toes, tips of ears, nose) become frozen, causing tissue damage. If someone is experiencing this, their skin may feel loose, appear cold\hard\waxy, and turn purple or red as the skin thaws. Additionally, the victim may also feel tingling or burning in the affected extremities. If you suspect frostbite, attempt to warm the extremities using warm water or rags. It is important that this water is not hot. Do not disturb frostbitten extremities by rubbing the affected area. If the color in the extremities does not come back immediately, please go to the nearest hospital or call emergency services. 

Other items to keep in mind

Both frostbite and hypothermia can and will affect pets. If you can, please bring your pets inside. If not, please provide the most cover possible. Remember, if you are cold, they are likely colder. This same rule applies to children. As mentioned above, here is a list of pet-friendly shelters in Philadelphia. 

The city has this document that gives general tips for being prepared for winter, including if there are power outages.  Remember house fires are more common this time of year when people resort to using space heaters or other things other than a heating system to stay warm.

This list tells users how to build an emergency kit, home heating tips to prevent fire or gas inhalation, how to keep water running through the cold, preventing winter damage to your car, and snow emergency routes if an evacuation were to occur.