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Mayor Richard M. Daley today urged Chicagoans to use common sense and help each other – particularly the elderly, people with disabilities, the sick and the homeless – to get through the coming winter safely.
“The City is well-prepared to deal with the coming winter, but we can do our job much more effectively if everyone lends a helping hand,” Daley said in a news conference held with City department heads at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications Headquarters, 1411 W. Madison St.
Daley said that even though the City is facing tough economic times, the budget maintains the essential services that help all residents but especially those most in need -- get through the winter.
He said that, as always, snow removal is one of the City’s biggest jobs during winter and the Department of Streets & Sanitation is well-prepared to keep the streets clear and safe.
“For most of us, the cold and snow should not be a major problem, as long as we keep a few things in mind and take advantage of the help the city has to offer,” he said.
Daley reminded residents that starting tomorrow morning at 3 a.m., motorists must not to park their cars on key arterial streets where overnight parking is prohibited from December 1 to April 1 -- regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground.
He asked residents to be patient during snow clearing operations and to drive with caution on side streets until crews can get to them.
The Mayor said the City’s snow fleet is in great shape for winter.
Chicago has added 40 new snow trucks which will strengthen its removal operations. If the weather turns very bad, the City can quickly add up to 200 trucks to the fleet by attaching temporary “quick hitch” plows to garbage trucks.
And the City will follow the progress of snow removal operations using both GPS and the OEMC’s network of more than 1,000 cameras, including red light cameras.
The City also has in place a network of ground sensors throughout the route system to show pavement temperatures and conditions.
The Mayor said the OEMC’s website --www.alertchicago.com
-- is filled with important information to help residents become better prepared to handle Chicago’s winter weather.
And all residents can find out how to get help with cold weather-related problems by calling the City’s 311 Center. The City can also provide extreme weather alerts to the cell phones and handheld computers of anyone who signs up for the “Notify Chicago” program.
The City also maintains a Voluntary Emergency Assistance Registry for People with Disabilities or Special Needs, which can be especially important during severe weather. Residents can sign up for this registry by calling the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
- DFSS coordinates the operation of daytime Warming Centers beginning with six Community Service Centers located across the city. Centers are open Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays 9 am to 5 pm and Wednesdays 11 am to 7 pm. The centers are open December 1 through March 1, or when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. DFSS works closely with the Chicago Police Chicago, Park District and Chicago Public Library to ensure there are plenty of places people can go to find relief from cold temperatures.
- The Garfield Community Center, located at 10 S. Kedzie Av., is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect people to supportive services during extreme weather, including shelter and emergency housing.
- The City urges Chicagoans to check on relatives, friends and neighbors during periods of extreme weather. Senior citizens and those with health problems are most at risk. If you are concerned about someone and unable to make contact with them, call 311. DFSS will send an outreach team to conduct a well-being check and arrange for necessary assistance.
- DFSS will provide transportation for anyone who needs to get to a daytime Warming Center or overnight shelter. Residents should call 311 to request transportation.
- DFSS expands outreach to homeless people during the cold winter months. As dangerous weather conditions persist, additional outreach teams are put on duty. These teams approach homeless people living outdoors and encourage them to take advantage of available overnight shelters and other services. More than 4,000 beds are available in 60 shelters across the city.
- The Department’s Senior Services Area Agency on Aging works aggressively to proactively provide information to Chicago’s seniors during periods of extreme weather, and typically work to begin notifying seniors about prevention measures before the weather reaches emergency conditions.
- To support OEMC’s outreach to seniors via NotifyChicago and reverse 911 calls, the Senior Services Area Agency on Aging makes phone calls to a list of 2,000self-selected seniors to inform them of impending weather and inquire about their well-being. The City also utilizes its Meals on Wheels drivers to check on the recipients of 8,000 home-delivered meals.
“Unfortunately, in this very difficult economy, some families will have real problems paying their utility bills this winter, and I urge them to apply for financial help using the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the Share the Warmth Program and the ComEd Care Program,” Daley said.
In the 2010-2011 winter season, the City is providing an additional $750,000 to assist low-income residents with bill payment assistance. Administered by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA), the City’s funding, combined with Peoples’ Gas Share the Warmth funding (approximately $750,000) provides heating grants to limited and fixed-income households to help qualifying customers pay their gas bills. Eligible customers who make a payment toward their bills receive matching grants of up to $200.00
Multi-million dollar, multi-year initiative developed to help ComEd customers save money on energy bills. It also conducts energy efficiency improvements in low-income homes in partnership with City Departments and non-profit organizations.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The federal LIHEAP provides one-time bill payment assistance to income eligible households. The LIHEAP income eligibility level is 150% federal poverty level. LIHEAP FY 2011 1st Quarter Funding totals $101,936,807.
The Mayor said the Department of Health reminds everyone to limit the time spent in very cold temperatures, not to let children play outside for long periods of time, wear several layers of loose, warm clothing and stay dry.
And the Fire Department reminds Chicagoans to avoid doing dangerous things such as trying to thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch or placing a space heater near the curtains or the Christmas tree.
“It’s our shared responsibility to look out for each other all the time, but particularly in the extreme weather conditions we often experience during winter in Chicago. All of us can stay safe in this weather, but we absolutely must take common-sense precautions,” he said.
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