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Hypo/Hyperthermia

You can save a life in extreme weather!

Save a life in cold weather! If you see a homeless person who is inadequately protected on a freezing day, call DC’s Hypothermia Hotline: 1-800-535-7252. Be prepared to provide the address and a description of the person’s clothing.

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. Every winter, homeless people die on the streets and in the parks in the District of Columbia.

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.

When the temperature or Wind Chill is 32° or below, the District issues a Hypothermia Alert. On those occasions, 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. The professionals will make this evaluation.

During a Hypothermia Alert, the District is obligated by law to make shelter available. The District has contracted with organizations to provide emergency shelter to men, women and families on Hypothermia Alert Nights 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 Hospital Emergency Shelter 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 have a problem obtaining these services, please contact:

If you live or work in the District of Columbia, please print this page, write down the hypothermia number and keep it with you, or put this phone number in your cell phone: 1-800-535-7252. Share it with others. You may save a life this winter!