Mother Nature’s version of March Madness is a second major storm in less than a week aimed at New York City and the Northeast. The predicted dump of as much a foot of heavy, wet snow on us, along with high winds, is certain to take down more trees and power lines.
Whether or not this is another Snowmageddon or SnowBomb, it’s wise to be prepared and take steps to be safe during winter storms and extreme cold.
These tips are from the NYC Office of Emergency Management, and they apply to anybody anywhere who lives in the path of a winter storm.
Dress for the weather
- Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
- Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
- Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
- Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
Recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia
- Hypothermia: symptoms include slurred speech, sluggishness, confusion, dizziness, shallow breathing, unusual behavior, and slow, irregular heartbeat.
- Frostbite: symptoms include gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, and waxy feeling skin.
How to Help Others
- Infants, seniors, and people with paralysis or neuropathy are at increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Check on friends, relatives, and neighbors who may need assistance to ensure they are adequately protected from the cold.
- Community members who identify someone on the street they believe needs assistance should contact 311 and ask for the Mobile Outreach Response Team. The Department of Homeless Services will send an outreach team to the location to assess the individual’s condition and take appropriate action.
- If you suspect a person is suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, bring him or her someplace warm and seek medical help immediately or call 911.
- If medical help is unavailable, re-warm the person, starting at the core of their body. Warming arms and legs first can increase circulation of cold blood to the heart, which can lead to heart failure. Use a blanket, or if necessary, your own body heat to warm the person.
- Do not give a person suffering frostbite or hypothermia alcohol or caffeine, both of which can worsen the condition. Instead, give the patient a cup of warm broth.
Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
- Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use.
- Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. NEVER drape clothes over a space heater to dry.
- Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
- Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
- Make sure you have a working smoke detector in every room. Check and change batteries often.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your apartment or home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working.
- NYC law requires owners to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of the primary entrance to each sleeping room.
Learn more about NYC’s carbon monoxide detector law
- Make sure your heating system is kept clean and properly vented; have worn or defective parts replaced.
- Have your fireplace, chimney, and flue cleaned every year to remove soot deposits, leaves, etc.
- Kerosene heaters are dangerous and illegal in New York City.
- Don’t heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
- Do not use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
- Never use a charcoal grill or a hibachi indoors.
- Automobile exhaust contains carbon monoxide. Open your garage door before starting your car and do not leave the motor running in an enclosed area. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.
- The most common symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache. However, symptoms may also include dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, people can become increasingly irritable, agitated and confused, eventually becoming lethargic and lapsing into unconsciousness.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, and get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
Learn more about carbon monoxide
For more information on how to properly and safely heat your home, visit the FDNY’s website.
Every NYC resident is entitled to heat and hot water, whether you live in a rental, co-op or condo.
Tenants without adequate heat or hot water should first speak with the building owner, manager, or superintendent. If the problem is not corrected, tenants should call 311. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will attempt to contact your building’s owner to get heat or hot water service restored.
If service has not been restored, HPD will send an inspector to your building to verify the complaint and issue a violation. If your landlord does not live up to his or her legal obligation, HPD will call in emergency contractors to fix the boiler or do whatever is required to get your heat and hot water working again.
For more information about loss of heat or hot water, refer to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s frequently asked questions for tenants.
If you lose heat, take measures to trap existing warm air, and safely stay warm until heat returns:
- Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while power is out.
- Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and layered clothing.
- If you have a working fireplace, use it for heat and light, but be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation.
- Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.
- Eat. Food provides your body with needed energy to produce its own heat and drinking helps your body avoid dehydration.
- If the cold persists and your heat is not restored, call family, neighbors, or friends to see if you can stay with them.
If your service line, pipes or water meters freeze:
- Open a faucet near the frozen point to release vapor from melting ice.
- Direct a hair dryer or heat lamp at the frozen section, or put a small space heater nearby.
- NEVER thaw a frozen pipe or meter with an open flame; this could lead to fire or cause a steam explosion.
- If your meter is damaged or your pipes burst, call 311.
Learn more about water supply disruptions
- Con Edison: 1-800-752-6633 (TTY: 1-800-642-2308)
- National Grid: 718-643-4050 (TTY: 718-237-2857)
- PSEG: 1-800-490-0025 (TTY: 631-755-6660)
Learn more about power disruptions
If You Need Emergency Heating Assistance
The Human Resources Administration (HRA) administers the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which provides low-income people with emergency heating assistance. Eligible residents will receive a payment for fuel delivery, or HRA will arrange for fuel delivery or boiler repair. Emergency assistance is given to those who qualify only once per heating season. Contact 311 for more information.