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Health Commissioner Wen declares first Code Blue Alert of the winter season

1/5/2016, 11 a.m.
With overnight temperatures predicted to fall into the teens with a single-digit wind chill, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana ...
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen (Courtesy Photo)

With overnight temperatures predicted to fall into the teens with a single-digit wind chill, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued a Code Blue declaration for Baltimore City overnight. This is the first Code Blue alert for Baltimore this season.

“While we enjoyed a warm start to winter, the weather has turned cold quickly to start 2016. I am issuing a Code Blue Declaration tonight in Baltimore and encourage residents to stay in indoors, especially those most vulnerable to cold,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Extreme cold temperatures can permanently injure, or even kill. Hypothermia, or low body temperature, can be just as dangerous as extreme heat, so it is important to stay indoors in heated areas. Be sure to check on your elderly neighbors to ensure that they have heat and power tonight.”

The Health Commissioner may declare a Code Blue alert when temperatures, including wind chill, are expected to be 13˚F or below or when other conditions are severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of vulnerable Baltimore citizens.

Code Blue indicates an increased risk for cold injuries or even death for those exposed to low temperatures. Once a Code Blue declaration is made, public messaging activities are undertaken to encourage safety when outdoors and response partners work to ensure those in need find sheltering. During the Code Blue season, which began November 16, 2015 and lasts until March 15, 2016, City agencies work together to:

  • Distribute meals to at-risk senior citizens;
  • Provide home weatherization services;
  • Help individuals apply for emergency assistance; and
  • Provide additional cold weather education and outreach efforts, as needed

Throughout the Code Blue season, The Mayor’s Office of Human Services’ Office of Homeless Services also works with city homeless shelter providers to extend shelter hours and to provide expanded bed capacity. Last winter, the state Medical Examiner’s office recorded 12 hypothermia-related deaths in Baltimore City.

Cold Weather Tips for Staying Healthy:

  • Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing.
  • Always wear a head covering, like a hat and/or scarf, when outdoors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Protect yourself against falls in icy or snowy conditions.
  • Check on those who are children, the elderly and/or chronically ill.
  • Provide appropriate shelter for domestic animals.

Other Tips For Keeping Safe in Cold Weather:

  • Keep space heaters and candles away from flammable materials, such as curtains, furniture and loose clothing.
  • Check your carbon monoxide detector and make sure it’s working.
  • Do not use prohibited heat or power sources, such as stoves or generators. They may cause fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not leave your car running in a closed space such as a garage.

Residents are encouraged to contact 311 if a neighbor is without heat or power so that city agencies can assist them. Energy assistance may be available to those who need it. For more information, individuals may contact one of the regional Community Action Partnership centers in Baltimore or call the Office of Home Energy Programs at 410-396-5555.

For more information about Code Blue, visit the Health Department’s Website atwww.health.baltimorecity.gov.

For other cold-related inquiries and service requests, or to find a nearby homeless shelter, residents can call 311 or 211.