Winter in Philadelphia can mean ice skating adventures, warm drinks at your favorite restaurant, and maybe even some sledding in Clark Park. It can also mean excessive cold and severe weather. 

Severe cold can bring a host of challenges, such as heating your home and protecting your water pipes from freezing or bursting.

Prolonged exposure to harsh cold can cause serious health issues, even for healthy adults. Here are a few tips to help you stay warm and be safe this winter. 

Dress warm and stay dry

Excessive cold can cause serious ailments such as frostbite and hypothermia. Make sure to dress in layers. Wear hats, scarves, and water-repellent coats. Wear mittens instead of gloves; they’ll keep your hands warmer. For more tips on preventing cold-related illness, check out our winter weather preparedness guide.

Call the Homeless Outreach Hotline if you see someone on the street who needs shelter

The Office of Homeless Services will dispatch their homeless outreach team to any individual on the street who needs to be transported to a local shelter or who needs other homeless services.

  • Save this number in your phone to request outreach anytime, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Homeless Outreach Hotline: 215-232-1984.

Sign up for ReadyPhila Alerts

The Office of Emergency Management shares information about severe weather through free email and text alerts via the City’s mass notification system, ReadyPhiladelphia. You can also sign up for COVID-19 alerts too.

Report heating issues in a rented property

If you are a renter and do not have working heat, inform your building owner of the issue as soon as possible. If your landlord does not repair the problem, contact Philly311. A request will be sent to Licenses and Inspections, which inspects heating issues in residential rented properties. 

Heat your home safely

Heating sources are the second-leading cause of home fires. It is imperative that you heat your home safely to prevent an emergency. Here are a few quick safety tips:

  • Keep any object that could catch fire at least 3 feet away from a heat source. 
  • Plug only one heat-producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord. 
  • Never use an oven to heat your home.

For more home heating safety tips, check out pages 6 and 7 of OEM’s Winter Weather Guide.

Get utilities assistance

To help avoid the spread of COVID-19, Philadelphians should still plan to stay home as much as possible this winter. That means you are likely going to be spending more time in your house than in past winters, so your utility bills may be higher. There is help available.

LIHEAP

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is open until April 9, 2021 or until funding runs out. LIHEAP is a government assistance program that helps to provide heat to our most vulnerable residents. Find more info on the program and how to apply here. 

PECO

Customers who are challenged to pay their energy bill should contact PECO customer care as soon as possible at 1-800-494-4000. PECO will work closely with customers to waive late payment fees, avoid having their service shut off, discuss reconnections, and determine eligibility for assistance programs. Learn more about options available.

Philadelphia Water Department

The Water Department also offers customer assistance programs for those struggling to pay their water bill. Call 215-685-3500 or go to their website to find more information. 

Winterize your home and protect your pipes

Excessive cold can wreak havoc on your home’s piping if not treated correctly. Along with cutting costs on your heating bill, winterizing your home can prevent your pipes from freezing or bursting. Check out the Water Department’s helpful guide on protecting your pipes and avoiding costly repairs. Severe winter weather can also lead to water main breaks. Find out everything you need to know about reporting main breaks here. 

Keep your pets safe and warm

Pets can also suffer from prolonged exposure to severe cold. Here are a few quick tips to keep your furry friends safe during the winter months:

  • Keep your cat inside. 
  • Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s paws, legs, and stomach after they come in from the sleet, snow, or ice. 
  • Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts.

It is against City ordinance to leave a dog outside in severe cold. Owners can face a $500 fine (and can put their pets in grave danger) if they don’t follow ACCT Philly’s requirements. Make sure to familiarize yourself with ACCT Philly’s extreme weather information

If you see an animal who does not have adequate water and shelter during extreme weather call 267-385-3800 and dial 1 to speak with a dispatcher or file a report online with all the details you have available.