Cold Weather Expected. Are You Ready?
The Houston Health Department (HHD) advises residents to take steps to avoid exposure to cold weather. This includes:
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing
- Wear a hat. This helps your body retain more of it's body heat
- Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
- Cover exposed skin, including hands. Mittens that are tight at the wrist are warmer than gloves.
- Avoid overexertion during periods of cold. Sweating and wet clothing can cause your body to lose heat more quickly.
Signs of hypothermia include:
- Shivering, exhaustion
- Confusion, fumbling hands
- Memory loss, slurred speech and
If these symptoms occur, check the persons temperature. If it is below 95°F, this is an emergency, you need to call 9-1-1.
If medical care is not available, begin warming the person, as follows:
- Get the victim into a warm room or shelter.
- If the victim has on any wet clothing, remove it.
- Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin—using an electric blanket, if available. Or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
- Warm beverages can help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
- After body temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible.
Additionally, the City is asking residents to check in with those who might be more vulnerable to cold temperatures, such as friends, family and neighbors who are elderly or have a disability.
Heater Safety & Carbon Monoxide Safety
The Houston Fire Department (HFD) recommends the following safety tips when using supplemental heating sources:
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm
- Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater
- Keep all combustible materials, including yourself at least 3 feet from the heater
- Open-face heaters should have a screen
- Don't use extension cords for heaters
- Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
- Heaters should be inspected annually by a qualified service technician. Don't wait for cold weather!
- Vent pipes must exhaust to the outside!
- If your flame is not blue, it is not burning properly. It is producing Carbon Monoxide, turn it off!
- Use flexible metal tubing with threaded ends to connect the heater to the gas valve
- Use soapy water to check all connections and valves for leaks. NEVER use a match to test for a gas leak!
- Look for the American Gas Association label and follow the manufacturer's recommendations
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Additionally, HFD reminds residents about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide when using heating devices:
- Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can kill you before you are even aware it is in your house.
- CO causes side effects such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue that are often mistaken for the flu
- The gas may originate from your furnace, fireplace, stove, hot water heater, barbeque grill or automobile.
- Warming-up automobiles in an attached garage, even with the garage door open, can allow concentrated amounts of CO to enter your house through nearby windows or carport door
- Purchase a Carbon Monoxide detector if you use gas or a fireplace for your heating. Have your furnace professionally inspected every year and check for CO emissions
- Install a Carbon Monoxide detector in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home
- When your CO alarm sounds, ventilate the house with fresh air by opening windows and doors
- Check your CO detector by every month pressing the test button and replace the detector every 5 years
Maintaining Proper Heating and Hot Water in Buildings
The Public Works & Engineering Department (PW&E), which is responsible for multi-family building inspections, reminds landlords and property owners about the basic requirements for heating and hot water supply to their properties.
Landlords are obligated to maintain their rental properties to the minimum standards set by the City of Houston Code of Ordinances (Sec. 10-363). Heating equipment must be able to maintain a minimum inside temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (measured three feet above the floor) when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
In each non-vacant dwelling unit and congregate living facility, provide and maintain in good operating condition a device to supply hot water at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
To report suspected violations, call 3-1-1 (713.837.0311).
Various agencies, including the Houston Police Department (HPD) Homeless Outreach Team, will be checking in with the local homeless population in an effort to help them stay safe and warm. They also work with homeless individuals to connect them with shelters and other available services.
Houston residents interested in helping the homeless population during periods of cold weather are encouraged to seek out a non-profit agency that routinely works with the homeless population and knows their needs to make a monetary, or in-kind donation (such as blankets, gloves, gently-worn coats).
The Houston Coalition for the Homeless maintains a list of agencies that provide direct services to people who are homeless. For more information visit homelesshouston.org.
Houston residents who live in Harris County may be eligible for financial assistance if they have difficulty paying electric or gas bills. This program, managed by Neighborhood Centers, Inc., has specific requirements that must be met before residents are eligible for help. For more information, or to sign up, call 2-1-1 (or 877-541-7905) or visit neighborhood-centers.org.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) reminds residents to stay informed about changing weather conditions. Weather information is available from the National Weather Service 24 hours a day at weather.gov/houston.
Additionally, when weather becomes life-threatening, the City will issue an emergency alert through AlertHouston. To sign up, visit houstontx.gov/emergency.