Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter

Please leave this field empty
Help make a difference.Donate Now
Print   Bookmark and Share

Hypothermia

Take Action Now!

Join our Advocacy Network, and receive periodic alerts to take action.


Did You Know?

16.5% more D.C. families were homeless in January 2009 than in January 2008.

As many as 20,000 D.C. residents may be homeless at some point in the year.


Learn More

Facts and Figures

Explore the Issues

More Resources

You may save a life this winter!

If you have a problem obtaining these services, please contact:
In an emergency: 911
After the emergency: advocacy@some.org

Every winter, homeless people die on the streets and in the parks in the District of Columbia. When the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or when the "Wind Chill" makes it feel as if the temperature is 32 degrees or below, people who are inadequately protected can suffer hypothermia. Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person's body temperature falls below 95 degrees. It is particularly dangerous for persons who are disabled by substance abuse or mental illness and may be unaware that their body temperature has fallen to the point of danger.

Once a person is suffering from hypothermia, he or she must be removed from the street. Usually, medical intervention is required. At times, a person at risk of becoming hypothermic will accept help voluntarily, but sometimes she or he must be helped involuntarily.

To get help for a homeless person in extremely cold weather, please call the DC Hypothermia Hotline at 1-800-535-7252. If you are not sure about the temperature, but the weather feels cold, very windy/rainy or otherwise dangerous to you, do not hesitate to call. Homeless people may also make the call themselves, if they have access to a telephone.

Between November 1 and March 31, when the temperature or Wind Chill is 32 or below, the District issues a Hypothermia Alert. On those days, your call to the Hypothermia Hotline should result in the dispatch of a van to take the person from the street to an emergency shelter (or to a hospital if needed). The van should have blankets, clothing and bottled water.

After you make the call, if a person appears to be suffering from hypothermia, the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Team will be notified. If psychiatric impairment is suspected, an evaluation will be requested.

On a Hypothermia Alert Day, the District is obligated by law to make shelter available. The District has contracted with organizations to provide emergency shelter to approximately 1,550 men, 500 women, and 200 families on Hypothermia Alert Days this winter. Some of the shelters are open from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. only. The emergency shelter for families at DC General is available 24 hours a day for the whole season. On days when the temperature remains below 32 degrees, single adults using hypothermia shelters will be offered places to stay and keep warm in emergency shelters that will remain open 24 hours a day.

If you live or work in the District of Columbia, please print this page or write down the hypothermia number and keep it with you. 1-800-535-7252
Share it with others.