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Emergency Responders Prepare for Deep Freeze

As the region begins to experience low temperatures not seen for nearly two decades, city and county officials are preparing for the worst.

Allegheny County has joined up with city officials to staff the Emergency Operations Center.

The Associated Press reports temperatures will continue to fall throughout the day and will not stop until hitting an expected low of nine below zero. Wind gusts of up to 30 miles an hour will result in wind chills of 31 below zero.

“We are ready to respond to anything that we may see from this severe cold weather,” said Chief Alvin Henderson of the Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services.

Freezing roads could cause icy conditions for drivers, pedestrians and bikers. One of the biggest fears among emergency service planners is a widespread power or gas outage.

Utilities in the county will be updating the Emergency Operations Center as long as the cold weather stays in place.

“If we start to see utility outages, we will try to quickly assess how large the affected area is and how long that outage will take place,” Henderson said.

Based on that assessment the county and city could open additional warming centers or warming shelters where residents can spend the night.

The city has already opened five warming centers:

  • Greenfield Healthy Active Living Center, 745 Greenfield Avenue (Phone: 412-422-6551)
  • Homewood Healthy Active Living Center, 7321 Frankstown Avenue (Phone: 412-244-4190)
  • North Side, Allegheny Center Healthy Active Living Center, Allegheny Square (Phone: 412-323-7329)
  • Sheraden Healthy Active Living Center, 720 Sherwood Avenue (Phone: 412-777-5012)
  • South Side Healthy Active Living Center, 12th and Bingham Streets (Phone: 412-488-8404)

Each center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.
Calls for incidents such as slips and falls that are normally a low priority for first responders will be moved up the list for the next few days.

“Outside medical emergency calls will be increased in priority with automatic aide from fire and police first responders," Henderson said. "Additionally, the Port Authority and County Hazmat is ready to assist with buses as warming stations, or warming tents, for emergency responders if needed.”

Pittsburgh residents have problems dealing with the cold are urged to call the city’s 3-1-1 Response Line.

“There are some folks that will be reluctant to call and we know that but we are encouraging them to call so that we can provide them the assistance they so desperately need,” said Chief Michael Huss, Pittsburgh Public Safety Department.

Water pipes on external walls can freeze as temperatures drop.  It is recommended that you leave cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate under sinks. If a pipe becomes frozen Huss warns against trying to thaw them with an open flame. Insulation and other flammable materials can easily catch fire and fire fighters have a hard time fighting fires in extreme cold weather.