Assisting Older Neighbors During Severe Weather

Allegheny County Emergency Services, Human Services and Health Department have put out some information about dealing with the extreme cold.  One item particularly seems relevant to Polish Hill —  the County encourages residents to look out for our elderly neighbors.

Assisting Older Neighbors During Severe Weather

The Department of Human Services (DHS) encourages all county residents to check on older neighbors to make sure they are safe during periods of severe weather. Here are some tips and guidelines:

·         Make sure seniors have a list of emergency telephone numbers that includes neighbors and family members who can help, if needed.

·         Check to see the furnace is working if the house feels cold. Become alert to dangerous methods of heating a room, such as open flames or ovens.

·         Ensure that walkways and steps leading to their homes are cleared and that there is food and water in the house.

·         Go back later or the next day, if at all possible, to make sure everything is still alright. Remove your coat and stay at least 15 minutes. This is a great chance to share a cup of coffee, verify the pipes are not frozen, and check on pets.

·         Be particularly mindful of older neighbors during a power outage. Lack of electrical power not only presents dangers associated with lack of heat, but also risks associated with non-functioning vital medical equipment, such as oxygen systems, emergency lighting, stair glides and medication timers. If you cannot contact someone you believe is in the house, contact your local police or emergency services.

When weather circumstances dictate, the DHS Area Agency on Aging and its contracted providers contact frail, isolated and high-risk consumers who are registered for care management. Care managers visit those at highest risk and ensure each home is well-heated and has enough food, water and medication to last for several days. Care managers also respond to emergency needs as they arise.

The Area Agency on Aging has already provided more than 2,400 “Snowy Weather Boxes” to at-risk older adults who are registered with the agency and often live alone. The boxes include toilet paper, non-skid slipper socks, hand sanitizer, flashlight and batteries, peanut butter, crackers, tuna, fruit, juice, bottled water, and other shelf-stable meals and drinks.

Information about programs and services for older adults is available by calling SeniorLine at 412-350-5460 (TDD/TTY 412-350-2727), sending an email to, or visiting the DHS Older Adults website at

(Photo of Brereton Street buildings in winter by Mark Knobil)