City launches Code Blue program for the winter

BALTIMORE - With one winter storm in the books and another on its way, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot announced the start of Baltimore City's Code Blue program for this winter.

Baltimore officials said Code Blue is a multi-agency coordinated approach to providing vulnerable populations in Baltimore City with relief from extreme cold weather with the goal of reducing the number of hypothermia deaths and related illnesses in the city.

"While last winter was milder than some in recent memory, this past weekend brought our first storm of the season and we can anticipate that more severe and colder weather is not far behind," said Rawlings-Blake in a statement. "It is critical that we get the word out now about resources available for those who need food and a warm place to go to ensure that all Baltimore City residents are safe from the cold."

A Code Blue can be declared by the health commissioner based on the following criteria through March 2014:

  • When temperatures, including wind chill, are expected to be 13 or below. This threshold can be reached by having a temperature at or below 20 with 5 mph sustained winds or a temperature at or below 25 with 15 mph sustained winds.
  • When other conditions (i.e. strong winds, forecasted precipitation for more than two hours, extended period of cold, sudden cold after a warm period) are deemed to be severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of vulnerable Baltimore citizens.

Code Blue indicates an increased risk for cold injuries or even death for those exposed to low temperatures. Once a Code Blue declaration is made, public messaging activities are undertaken to encourage safety when outdoors and response partners such as the Mayor's Office of Human Services - Homeless Services work to ensure those in need find sheltering.

Additional cold-weather resources for the public and a listing of city and private shelters, is available on the Health Department's Code Blue website at http://www.baltimorehealth.org/codeblueinfo2.html . For other cold-related inquiries and service requests, or to find a nearby homeless shelter, residents can call 311 or 410-396-3100 after hours.

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