Montgomery County Provides Cold Weather Information for People and Animals During County Hypothermia Alerts

cold emergency alertA Hypothermia Alert is issued for the County when forecasted temperatures, and/or wind chill, in at least part of the County fall below 32 degrees creating a hazardous situation in which hypothermia and frostbite are likely.

A Cold Emergency Alert could be issued for the County when dangerously cold conditions are present, including, but not limited to, sub-zero temperatures and wind chill for which it will be dangerous to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time.  

There is always particular concern for children, seniors, homeless individuals and animals during periods of extreme cold.
  • Neighbors, friends or family members should check on the elderly, especially a senior living alone. Older people are particularly susceptible to hypothermia, even inside their homes and may need assistance.
  • Children engaged in outdoor activities should be carefully monitored by a responsible adult
  • Everyone spending time outside should dress appropriately to protect against the cold
  • Montgomery County provides a variety of sheltering opportunities for the homeless. Call the police non-emergency line, 301-279-8000 if an individual appears to be in danger.
  • Animals should not be left outside unattended.  See more information about animal care below.
  • Residents in need of a place to warm up can visit County facilities such as libraries or recreation centers, or ride a Ride On bus, during normal operating hours. 

Alert Montgomery:

For timely severe weather and emergency notifications, go to and sign up for Alert Montgomery. Warnings and emergency updates will be sent directly to your cell phone (text), landline phone,  and/or email address. The service is free, but text charges may apply, so check with your cell phone carrier before selecting text alerts.

Visit winter weather storm & extreme cold page from Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security website.



Extreme cold is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as the very young, seniors, those without shelter or who are stranded, or who live in a home that is poorly insulated and/or without heat. Hypothermia can result from prolonged exposure to the cold. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. When the body’s store of energy is used up, the result is hypothermia. Because hypothermia can affect the brain, a person may not be aware that it is happening, and not take appropriate steps to prevent damage.

Warning Signs:

  • Shivering, exhaustion
  • Confusion, fumbling hands
  • Memory loss, slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • For infants – bright red, cold skin, very low energy

What to do:

  • If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95 degrees, the situation is an emergency – get medical attention immediately
  • If the person is unconscious and does not seem to have a pulse or is not breathing, call 9-1-1

While waiting medical care:

  • Get victim into a warm room or shelter
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Warm the center of the body first – chest, neck, head and groin – using electric blanket if available, or use skin-to-skin-contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels or sheets
  • Warm, nonalcoholic, beverages can help increase body temperatures if the victim is conscious


Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas, typically the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes. Signs of frostbite include redness or pain in any skin area, a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numb.

What to do:

  • Get into a warm area as soon as possible
  • Immerse the affected area in warm, but not hot water
  • Warm the affected area using body heat
  • Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator for warming
  • Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes if at all possible
  • Do not rub the frostbitten area with snow or massage the area

Shelter Information:

Montgomery County Health and Human Services staff, as well as community-based providers, will continue to reach out to homeless community members to urge them to seek shelter during periods of extreme cold temperatures. Residents concerned about the well-being of a homeless individual can call the 24-hour Line at 240-907-2688. Outreach partners will attempt to locate the individual and offer resources and support.

  • Individuals in need of daytime warming centers should call the 24 hour Homeless Resource Line at 240-907-2688 for location information.
  • Individuals in need of Emergency Shelter should call the Crisis Center at 240-777-4000 or present themselves at 1301 Piccard Drive, Rockville, MD 20850. A screening will be completed.

For additional information on County services contact MC311 by calling 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, or through the website address which is available to receive emails 24/7.

Outdoor Safety:

  • Try to stay indoors and make trips outside as brief as possible. Limit outdoor recreational activity. Outdoor cold weather exertion puts extra strain on the heart.
  • Wear hat, scarf or mask to cover face and mouth
  • Sleeves should be snug at the wrist
  • Several layers of loose-fitting clothing should be worn under a heavy coat

Indoor Safety:

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace or space heater, be extremely careful. Never use generators, grills, camp stoves or similar devices indoors, inside a garage, or near the air intake of your house because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Only use combustion heaters if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space
  • Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding
  • Do not use an extension cord

Vehicle Safety:

During cold winter weather, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Make sure there is adequate antifreeze. Keep a cell phone charger and a charged cell phone in your car in case you have an emergency. Never leave a person of any age alone in a vehicle. Have extra blankets and supplies in case of a breakdown.

Animal Care:

During a period of extreme cold temperatures, animals must not be left outside unattended. Leaving animals outside unattended in these conditions may be considered an act of cruelty and pet owners could be charged and fined accordingly. Executive Regulation 17-17 requires that during a Cold Emergency Alert, outdoor housing for an animal as described in Section 3.0 is inadequate and additional measures must be taken to provide adequate heating. These additional measures must be approved by the Executive Director of the Montgomery County Office of Animal Services.

During a period of extreme cold temperatures, the Montgomery County Office of Animal Services (OAS) enforces Executive Regulation 17-17, Anti-Cruelty Conditions for Dogs and Other Pets.  Unattended tethering of dogs is not allowed at any time.

Animals that usually spend long periods of time outdoors must have access to shelter to properly protect them from the elements; however, during periods of extreme cold they must be brought inside or have an adequate heat source approved by the Executive Director. The penalty for this violation is a $500 fine .

Animal Service Officers will be on-call, patrolling neighborhoods and responding to any animal-related emergencies. If you see an animal left outside that appears to be in danger, call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.