What a ‘Code Blue’ means for Philly residents

When temperatures feel near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, Philadelphia officials will declare a Code Blue. Here’s what that means, and how you can help.

A person, reflected in a window while wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus, walks during a winter storm in Philadelphia

File photo: A person, reflected in a window while wearing a face mask during a winter storm in Philadelphia, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

During extremely cold weather — when temperatures feel near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit — Philadelphia officials will declare a Code Blue.

What does that mean for Philly residents?

During a Code Blue event, the city implements special measures to keep people who are experiencing homelessness safe. Those measures include 24-hour outreach to find unhoused people and transport them to safe indoor spaces and opening all available beds within the city’s emergency housing network for those in need.

How to help

If residents see a person who appears to be unhoused during a Code Blue, they are urged to contact the city’s Homeless Outreach hotline at 215-232-1984.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Residents concerned about an older adult during extremely cold weather are urged to contact Philadelphia Corporation for Aging at 215-765-9040.

Plenty of nonprofits and mutual aid groups collect donations, both monetary and physical, to help people in need. Below are a few in the Philly area:

Prevention Point Philadelphia

PPP, a nonprofit that offers harm reduction services throughout Philly and the surrounding area, can provide people facing homelessness or housing instability with information on how to access emergency resources, including homeless outreach and shelter. Monetary donations can be made online. PPP’s emergency shelter, Beacon House, consistently needs hygiene supplies as well as bedding, pillows, and blankets. Those interested in donating items to Beacon House may email dale@ppponline.org.

Mutual Aid Philly

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The volunteer-run group serves residents in South Philly and Center City, prioritizing people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and people with low income. Monetary donations can be made online.

Community Action Relief Project

The mutual aid group, which serves the Kensington and Philadelphia community, accepts donations of clothes (e.g. hates, gloves, outerwear), non-perishable food, cleaning products, and hygiene supplies. For updates on what the group currently needs most, check out CARP’s Instagram. Items can be dropped off at the group’s supply hub on Saturdays or Sundays from 11:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. Monetary donations can be made online.

What about Philly pets?

During Code Blue events, all dogs must be either indoors or have access to shelter that meets the following requirements:

  • Suitable size to accommodate the dog in both standing and lying positions
  • Moisture-proof, windproof, ventilated, and in cold temperatures shall promote the retention of body heat
  • Made of durable material with a solid, moisture-proof floor raised at least two inches from the ground
  • Contain clean bedding material consisting of hay, straw, cedar shavings or the equivalent to provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness
  • Access to drinking water available in a clean, liquid state. Snow or ice is not an acceptable water source
  • Free from excessive dirt, trash, and waste
  • Windbreak at the entrance

Violations of the city ordinance may result in penalties of $500 or more.

If residents see a pet outside during a Code Blue, they are urged to contact Philadelphia’s Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) at 267-385-3800 and dial 1 to speak with the dispatcher. Residents may also file a report online will all of the available information.

ACCT also provides free straw for caretakers or owners of pets and community cats who spend most or all of their time outdoors.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal