Information and Resources During Extreme Cold Weather Alerts

Today is forecasted to be the coldest day so far this winter, and an Extreme Cold Weather Alert for Toronto remains in effect until further notice. 

Extreme Cold Weather Alerts activate local services that focus on getting and keeping vulnerable residents inside. A warming centre is open at Metro Hall by 7 p.m. the day an alert is called, and remains open continuously until noon on the day an alert is terminated. Other services include notification to community agencies to relax any service restrictions, availability of transit tokens in some drop-ins, and additional overnight street outreach.

Throughout the year, 24-hour respite sites provide meals, places to rest, and service referrals at locations across the city. 311 can be called for location information and to connect to Central Intake for a referral. Additional information for those experiencing homelessness can also be found at toronto.ca/homelesshelp.

The City asks that residents help vulnerable people by calling 311 if there is a need for street outreach assistance. Call 911 if the situation is an emergency.

Extreme Cold Weather Alerts are issued when the temperature in the daily forecast suggests temperatures will reach approximately -15 degrees Celsius or colder, or when the wind chill is forecast to reach -20 or colder. The Medical Officer of Health may also consider other weather-related factors when issuing Extreme Cold Weather Alerts.

Those most at risk of cold-related illness are people experiencing homelessness or those under-housed, those who work outdoors, people with a pre-existing heart condition or respiratory illness, elderly people, infants and young children. People with heart problems can experience worsening of their condition up to several days after cold weather occurs.

During an Extreme Cold Weather Alert, members of the public are encouraged to take the following precautions:

  • Check the weather report before going outside.
  • Dress in layers, making sure your outer layer is windproof, and cover exposed skin.
  • Wear a hat, warm mittens or gloves, and warm boots.
  • Stay dry. Your risk of hypothermia is much greater if you are wet.
  • Choose wool or synthetic fabrics for your clothes instead of cotton, because cotton absorbs and holds moisture, no longer keeping the wearer warm.
  • Seek shelter if you normally spend long periods outside. Depending on the wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in minutes.
  • Drink warm fluids other than alcohol.
  • Warm up by taking regular breaks in heated buildings when enjoying winter activities outside.
  • Consider rescheduling outdoor activities, or limiting time outdoors, during colder temperatures, especially if it's windy.
  • Heat your home to at least 21 degrees Celsius if infants or elderly people are present.
  • Call or visit vulnerable friends, neighbours and family to ensure they are not experiencing any difficulties related to the weather.

More information on staying safe during cold weather is available at toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-programs-advice/extreme-cold-weather.

 

As we work to ensure our most vulnerable residents are safe during extreme weather, it is also critical that we remain focused on our work to end homelessness. To create pathways out of homelessness, we must act now and move forward with building new supportive housing. There are many actions we must take, and supportive housing is but one part of the large housing spectrum in need of investment, including social housing and rent-geared-to-income supports. But, housing is the answer and I will continue to push for immediate action.