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Bitter Cold Weather is Coming. Information on Shelters, Winter Warming Center, Places to Stay Warm, and Extreme Cold Safety Tips

In anticipation of the extremely cold weather arriving this weekend, the City of Cambridge is making the following preparations, along with community agency partners:

The various shelters in the city will be expanding capacity overnight Friday (2/3) and Saturday (2/4). Many shelters will also be operating during daytime hours to allow residents to stay and to allow additional individuals to access (where possible) during the day.

The City's Winter Warming Center, located in the basement of the Cambridge Senior Center (806 Massachusetts Avenue), will stay open during the day on Saturday (2/4). Guests should use the entrance on Green Street to access the building.

The Salvation Army’s Drop-in Center, 402 Massachusetts Avenue, will extend hours and will be open from 9 a.m.-4p.m. on Friday (2/3) and Saturday (2/4).

The First Step Street Outreach team will be operating between 2 p.m. and Midnight both Friday (2/3) and Saturday (2/4). They will transport people who are willing to go inside and will provide resources to those who do not wish to go inside. Members of the public who see unsheltered persons in Cambridge they are concerned about can call the First Step team at 617-592-6895 or call 911 for a medical emergency.

Cambridge Fire Department will be increasing staffing on all engines and ladder trucks from 7p.m. Friday (2/3) through 7 a.m. Sunday (2/5).
Paramedic units will be engaging people who need assistance, providing information about warming centers, and helping facilitate transportation as needed.

Cambridge Police Department is coordinating with its partners to bring in two additional Outreach Officers Saturday morning and evening (2/4) to attempt to locate anyone who may need to get indoors.  The Cambridge Police Department lobby at 125 Sixth Street is also open for people who need a place to escape the cold.

Cambridge Public Libraries are open the following hours and everyone is welcome to stay for as long as they want during open hours:

Friday, Feb. 3:
Main Library 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Boudreau Branch, Central Square Branch, Collins Branch, O’Connell Branch, O’Neill
Branch, Valente Branch are all open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 4:

Main Library 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Central Square Branch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Valente Branch 1-5 p.m.
O’Neill Branch 1-5 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 5:

Main Library 1-5 p.m.


Extreme Cold Safety Tips

  • Limit outdoor time for the whole family, including pets.
  • If you go outside, dress in layers and cover exposed skin. Wear a hat and mittens (not gloves). Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.
  • When outside, stay active to maintain body heat and take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially people who are elderly, those with medical conditions, and those who may need extra help.
  • In Cambridge, if you see unsheltered persons you are concerned about you can call the First Step Outreach Team at 617-592-6895. Call 911 to report a medical emergency.

Watch for Signs of Cold-Related Illness

Extreme cold can cause frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is the freezing of the skin and body tissue. 

  • Symptoms: Loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, earlobes, face, and the tip of the nose.
  • Treatment: Get the person to a warm location. Cover exposed skin, but do not rub the affected area. Seek medical attention immediately.

Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature and is life-threatening.

  • Symptoms: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, and slurred speech.
  • Treatment: If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95°, seek medical attention immediately. Get the person to a warm location. Remove wet clothing. Warm the center of the body first by wrapping the person in blankets or putting on dry clothing. Give them warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the person is conscious.

At Home

  • Wrap pipes in insulation to prevent them from freezing.
  • Turn off water to outside spigots and remove hoses.
  • Let a trickle of warm water run from a faucet to keep water moving through your pipes.
  • If your pipes freeze, open all faucets all the way, remove any insulation, and heat the frozen pipe with a hair dryer or wrap with towels soaked in hot water.
  • In the event of a power outage, you may need to take extra precautions or go to an emergency shelter to stay warm.

Heating Safety

In case you lose heat, make sure you have extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats in your home. Never turn on the stove for heat. If you plan to use a portable space heater or fireplace, here are some tips:

Space Heater

  • Keep anything that can burn, such as bedding, clothing, and curtains, at least 3 feet away from the heater.
  • Make sure the heater has an automatic shut-off, so if it tips over, it shuts off.
  • Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Only use portable heaters from a recognized testing laboratory.
  • It is illegal to use portable kerosene heaters in Massachusetts homes.


  • Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out.
  • Do not burn paper in your fireplace.
  • Put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home.
  • Put cooled ashes outside in a metal container with a lid, at least 10 feet from your home.

Beware of Frozen Pipes

  • Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Check for open windows, air vents, and wind drafts near water pipes.
  • Seal leaks in the basement foundation where cold air may enter. Stuff holes with insulation. A tiny opening may cause an exposed pipe to freeze.
  • Locate the main water shut off valve in your home and mark it for quick identification. Learn how to turn it off, and educate others in your household. If a water pipe bursts, shutting your home’s main valve quickly will minimize flooding and property damage.
  • Leave kitchen/sink cabinet doors open if pipes are subject to freezing. This will allow heat to reach the pipes.
  • Don’t use an open flame to thaw pipes. If your pipes do freeze, use a hair dryer or rags soaked in hot water to thaw lines.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated spaces like garages, basements, and crawl spaces. This will help prevent frozen pipes, avoiding property damage and the costs of repairs. Additionally, insulating hot water pipes will decrease your wait time for warm water.
  • Protect your water meter from icy drafts and freezing temperatures. Most frozen meters are caused by drafts from an open basement door or window. Double check your property for drafts as the cold weather sets in.
  • Learn more about protecting water pipes and meters from freezing.


  • Keep your gas tank 1/2 full.
  • Get your car battery checked.
  • Maintain tire pressure.
  • Get a safety kit packed.
  • Tell family or friends if you are traveling.
  • Bring extra warm clothing and blankets.

More Information
Stay Safe During and After a Storm (CDC)
What You Can Do During Extreme Cold Weather (Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health)
Severe Weather and Heating Safety Tips (US Fire Administration)

Page was posted on 2/1/2023 4:10 PM
Page was last modified on 7/24/2023 9:48 PM
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