OEMC encourages residents to prepare now for upcoming winter weather amid COVID-19 pandemic

November 20, 2020

Warming centers, connection to shelters and other City services available through 3-1-1; COVID-19 stay-at-home advisory in effect for Chicago


CHICAGO – During Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Illinois, and as the City prepares for the winter season during the COVID-19 pandemic; the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is advising residents and businesses to consider how the cold temperatures and changing weather to come will impact their planning and take precautions now to get ready, especially given the challenges of the pandemic.

“OEMC is dedicated to ensure the City of Chicago is prepared for the winter season, particularly during the COVID pandemic,” said OEMC Executive Director Rich Guidice. “We will continue to monitor weather conditions with the National Weather Service and coordinate response efforts with City departments and public partners to keep residents safe and informed.”

OEMC hosted a Winter Weather Workshop in October with public safety, infrastructure and other departments and agencies to plan the coordination of operations for the winter months ahead.

Severe cold temperatures, strong winds and snow can cause additional hazards, whether home or traveling, so it’s important to stay informed. OEMC issues several alerts and notifications to keep people up to date on weather conditions and emergencies.

  •  Notify Chicago: Sign up for emergency alerts at www.NotifyChicago.org
  • CHILAKE: For lakefront notices including flooding, TEXT “CHILAKE” to 7-8-0-1-5
  • COVID: Get COVID-19 updates by TEXTING “COVID19” to 6-7-2-8-3
  • CHIBIZ: Business updates, TEXT “CHIBIZ” to 6-7-2-8-3

Department of Streets and Sanitation

The Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) manages more than 9,400 lane miles of roadway and maintains a fleet of over 300 snow vehicles that are fully prepared to respond if needed. In addition, DSS has over 400,000 tons of salt stationed at salt piles throughout the city.

Winter Overnight Parking Ban
The City’s winter overnight parking ban goes into effect on December 1st. This ban restricts parking on 107 miles of critical roadways during the hours of 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. to ensure that our crews can quickly salt and plow the streets during a winter storm. Residents are encouraged to check the posted street signs for parking restrictions.

Chicago Department of Public Health

As the City braces for cold temperatures and winter weather, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) would like to caution residents to take care of themselves, and to also provide assistance to neighbors, family members, pets and friends, particularly those who are elderly, have disabilities and/or live alone. Taking preventative action is the best way to stay safe from the serious health risks associated with winter weather. Residents are advised to limit their time outside, wear layers of warm clothing when going outside, and watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. As a reminder, under Chicago’s Stay-at-Home Advisory, residents should:

  • Only leave home to go to work, school, or for essential needs such as seeking medical care or going to the grocery store or pharmacy.
  • Always practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others.
  • Wear a face covering at all times.
  • Do not have gatherings in your home.
  • Avoid all non-essential, out-of-state travel.

 CDPH is also reminding residents that it’s not too late to get a flu shot. The combination of flu and COVID-19 could overwhelm healthcare settings. We all need to do our part to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses and help conserve potentially scarce health resources in hospitals already caring for COVID-19 patients. Residents can find flu shot locations at chicago.gov/flu.

Department of Family and Support Services Warming Areas
The Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) activates warming areas at the City’s six community service centers when temps are at 32 degrees or below.

  • The warming areas are open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • On evenings, weekends or holidays, city-operated facilities including libraries and park facilities might also serve as warming areas, if needed.
  • Residents must wear a face covering while in the warming areas.
  • The Garfield Community Service Center at 10 South Kedzie, is open on a 24-hour basis to connect families and residents to emergency shelter.
  • Those seeking a warm place to go after hours should call 3-1-1 to be connected with available services. Individuals requiring emergency overnight shelter should also call 3-1-1, visit 311.Chicago.gov or download the CHI311 app to ensure residents are aware of the City's designated warming areas. Residents are also encouraged to check on relatives, neighbors and friends during a winter weather emergency.
  • A list of community service center locations is available at Chicago.gov/FSS. Information and multilingual fliers containing warming center information in English, Spanish and Polish also are posted on DFSS's website at Chicago.gov/FSS.

Chicago Fire Department Winter Preparedness Safety Tips 
The Chicago Fire Department does not recommend using space heaters; however, if used, be sure they are UL certified and at least 3 feet from anything that can ignite. Use of a space heater in children’s rooms should be monitored closely as children sometimes move them close to or into the bed with tragic results. If extension cords are used, they should be rated at 15 amps minimum and never put cords under carpet.

With the added demand on furnaces and boilers, CFD also reminds residents are required by ordinance to have working carbon monoxide detectors to protect against carbon monoxide leaks from a heating system that could be fatal over time. Those seeking access to warming centers and/or experiencing insufficient heat are encouraged to contact 3-1-1 for immediate assistance. Also, be sure to keep smoke detectors in working order.

Department of Water Management
The Department of Water Management reminds residents to prevent frozen pipes, make sure that warm air is circulating throughout the home and keep a trickle of water running. If pipes freeze, do not use candles or any open flame to thaw them. Use a hair dryer or heating pad. For more info visit www.chicago.gov/water

National Weather Service
The National Weather Service in Chicago suggests keeping an eye on the forecast even 3-5 days out and consider how the expected conditions will impact you and how you can prepare.  As winter weather develops and situations are updated, it’s even more important to know what actions are needed when advisories and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.

  •  Winter Weather Advisory: Potentially dangerous winter weather is expected within the next 12-36 hours; Travel difficulties expected.
  • Winter Storm Warning: Dangerous winter weather is expected in the next 12-36 hours or is occurring; Travel problems are expected.
  • Blizzard Warning: Severe winter weather is expected in the next 12-36 hours or is occurring – including white out conditions. Do not travel.

Cold-Weather Tips

  •  Motorists should take extra precautions to winterize vehicles and have necessary supplies on-the-go. Keep in mind, disabled vehicles or distracted driving can cause accidents, impact traffic and others or requiring emergency services.
  • Residents should know the signs and care of frostbite and hypothermia. For Winter preparation information visit, Chicago.gov/OEMC/alertrespond/WeatherExtremes including links to other local, state and federal resources.
  • Avoid unnecessary trips outside-if you must go out, limit the time you stay outside;
  • Wear several layers of loose, warm clothing;
  • Keep your head, hands and feet covered when outdoors;
  • Stay dry, because moisture can damage the insulating effectiveness of clothing;
  • Pay extra attention to your daily needs: get enough sleep, eat high energy foods, drink warm beverages to help your body stay warm, and avoid alcoholic beverages;

Peoples Gas Cold Weather Tips and COVID-19 Financial Assistance
Make sure you're ready to heat your home safely this winter. Have your furnace inspected by a qualified technician and follow these safety steps throughout the heating season, Please call us immediately at 866- 556-6002 if you think you may have a natural gas emergency. For safety tips and additional details, visit PeoplesGasDelivery.com/safety/cold-weather

Peoples Gas has voluntarily suspended residential disconnections for the remainder of November. From Dec. 1 to March 31, the annual winter moratorium will protect residential customers from natural gas disconnections. Additionally, extended payment arrangements and financial assistance for relief to customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more by visiting, PeoplesGasDelivery.com/payment-bill/assistance or call 866-556-6000.

For additional information on emergency preparedness information, visit our website at Chicago.gov/OEMC. Follow the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on

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#ChicagoOEMC #Smart911 #Chicago911 #BeSafeChicago.

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