CONTACT: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes is reminding residents today to take precautions against severe cold expected to grip the region this week.

“After what began as a very mild winter, the entire region is expecting frigid temperatures for the rest of the week,” said Hughes. “It is imperative that people take the necessary steps to stay warm and to check up on friends and loved ones who may be more sensitive to the bitter cold.”

A cold front moving in this week is expected to bring temperatures in the low 20s, but wind chills are making it feel like single digits, according to the National Weather Service. The blast of arctic air could last through Thursday, Jan. 24.

For emergencies related to the cold weather, Mercer County residents should call 911 immediately. Residents should avoid being outside for extended amounts of time if possible. Hughes said people should check on children, elderly neighbors, family members, or any potentially at-risk individuals often to make certain they have functioning heating systems in their homes and cars. Also, it is crucial that anyone going outside, even for a brief time, dress warmly in layers, Hughes said.

It is recommended that residences maintain a temperature of approximately 68 degrees and that portable gas or propane heaters, which can be fire hazards, be used only in emergency situations. Residents should visit the National Institute on Aging website to learn how to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia:
http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/stay-safe-cold-weather-learn-why-you-need-stay-warm-when-its-cold/warning-signs.

County residents who meet income eligibility requirements may also qualify for heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Residents who qualify can sign up for assistance anytime through April 30, 2013, and those who are 60 or over or disabled can receive applications by mail. To find out more information, Mercer County residents can call the Division of Housing at (609) 989-6959, or visit www.energyassistance.nj.gov.

Tenants or homeowners with heating issues are urged to call their landlord or public utility provider for assistance. Information about utility companies and service maps is available on the state Board of Public Utility Web site at http://www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/index.shtml.

“I encourage anyone who has inadequate heating to contact the utility provider or to find out if he or she is eligible for LIHEAP assistance as soon as possible,” Hughes said.

Mercer County also designates several locations as warming sites, where people can escape the cold. Those include municipal senior centers, neighborhood community centers and the nine Mercer County Library System Branches.

All residents are welcome to use these sites; older residents and individuals with chronic health conditions are especially encouraged to use these sites during the day to find comfort. Depending on driver availability, TRADE may be able to assist with transportation to and from these sites. Residents are encouraged to call (609) 530-1971 if they anticipate requiring transportation assistance.

Additionally, residents should also adhere to the following advice from the state Department of Health and Senior Services:
  • Dress in layers while outdoors, including a hat and gloves. If you get wet from heavy sweating, rain, or snow, change into dry clothes as soon as possible.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid drinking alcohol because it can accelerate loss of body heat.
  • Many cold-weather injuries are the result of falls from icy surfaces. If possible, use rock salt or chemical de-icer to keep sidewalks, walkways, and porches free of ice.
  • Stock your car with emergency gear, including: a cell phone; jumper cables; flashlight; blanket; sand for extra traction; ice scraper and a small shovel; and flares or other warning devices. For longer trips in a vehicle, pack extra food and water, blankets, and any required medications.