The mild winter is decidedly over, and Philadelphia city officials are responding by declaring a Code Blue.

"During extremely bitter cold conditions," the officials explained, "the City implements extraordinary measures to preserve the lives of chronically homeless individuals." 

"We have had a mild winter so far and this is the real cold snap of the season," said Mayor Jim Kenney, "so I want to encourage citizens to stay indoors – wherever you may be." 

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A Code Blue emergency triggers four primary municipal actions:

  • The City implements 24-hour homeless outreach coverage
  • The City's Office of Supportive Housing provides access to beds that are vacant within the existing emergency housing network
  • Outreach teams and police implement the COTS, or Court Ordered Transportation to Shelter, programs by alerting the on-call City Solicitor and Common Pleas Court Judge
  • Office of Supportive Housing emergency shelters allow clients to remain indoors throughout the day

In other words, agencies in Philadelphia work in concert to ensure that nobody stays on the streets during the bitter cold. The City defines these conditions as "when the temperature, wind chill and precipitation combined together result in 'real feel' temperatures near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit."

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In addition to protections for people, it's against local law to leave a dog outside without shelter during Code Blue conditions. If citizens witness a dog outside without appropriate shelter, they're asked to call the Pennsylvania ASPCA at 215-426-6300.

Mayor Kenney added that all Philadelphians should limit "exposure to the elements, keep warm, check-in on your elderly neighbors and practice safe home heating."

Above all else, Kenney said that citizens should contact the appropriate authorities for help if they see someone in need by contacting Project HOME's outreach line at 215-232-1984.

"During the call, citizens should provide the address, location and description of the person in need," officials added.

The Code Blue is in effect until at least 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5.