When the temperature drops below freezing, vulnerable populations –such as people who live on the streets– are at high risk of dying of hypothermia. Hypothermia happens when your body loses heat much faster than it can produce it, making your body temperature dip well below the average of 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia causes clumsiness, confusion and slurred speech, as well as drowsiness and low energy. People with hypothermia can engage in risky behavior due to their confusion, so they can be a danger to themselves and others around them. Here is what you need to know when the District issues a hypothermia alert. Between November 1 and March 1, the District of Columbia issues a Hypothermia Alert during the following conditions:
- When the actual or forecast temperature drops below 32°F (including wind chill temperature), or
- When overnight temperatures are lower than 40°F and there is more than 50% chance of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow)
There is another kind of emergency called a Cold Emergency. This is activated when temperatures are forecast to fall to or below 15˚F, including wind chill, and there is precipitation such as steady rain for over an hour or a snow accumulation.
What can you do?
- If you see someone who’s out in the cold or who displays symptoms of hypothermia, call or email the UPO hotline at (202) 399-7093 , email@example.com or by dialing 311 or 211. Your call should dispatch a van equipped with cold weather supplies. If necessary, the van can take the person to the nearest hospital.
- If you or someone you know needs shelter for the night, you can go to (or direct them to) the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, located at 920-A Rhode Island, NE. If you cannot get there, you can call the hotline at (202) 399-7093 or 311.
- Need a shelter? The District Department of Human Services has a list of shelters here.
- If you need additional answers, the National Capital 211 website can provide additional help.