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Red Cross on High Alert During Cold Weather

As frigid temperatures continue to grip the greater Chicago and Northern Illinois region this week, the American Red Cross is assisting dozens of people affected or displaced by fires by providing warm shelter, clothing and food. 

In the past 24 hours the Red Cross has provided disaster relief for more than 36 people in Chicago, Rockford, Berwyn and Norridge, in addition to a number of those affected by a blaze on the city’s West Side earlier today in the Lawndale neighborhood. 

Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer, said the number home fires responses—typically three to four times a day—is about average for this time of year, but the weather conditions has the Red Cross on high alert. Since yesterday, the Red Cross responded to six incidents, which included finding shelter for 12 people displaced from a residential motel following a nearby commercial fire in a Rockford factory. 

“We know it’s going to be a busy couple of days. Our primary concern is finding a warm place for people to stay, getting them out of the bitter cold to begin work on recovery plans for each family,” said Jones. “We’re taking extra precautions, working with closely with local fire departments, law enforcement, city officials and first responders to ensure the safety of both the people affected by these fires and our volunteers on site who help them.” 

Volunteers are members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a disaster when called upon at any time of the day or night. 

The Red Cross recommends two easy steps to help protect your home and loved ones from a fire: get a smoke alarm and create a fire escape plan. For more Red Cross fire safety and preparedness information visit


Here are 10 ways to stay safe during this latest round of cold temperatures: 

1. Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will help prevent losing body heat. 

2. Know the signs of hypothermia - confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention. 

3. Watch for symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin. 

4. Bring the pets indoors. If that’s not possible, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water. 

5. Avoid frozen pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes. 

6. Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home. 

7. Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away. 

8. If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. 9. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed. 

10. Learn how to treat cold weather related emergencies by downloading the free Red Cross First Aid App at More information about winter safety is available on


To make a financial donation to the Red Cross to help people affected by home fires and other disasters go to or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 (to make a $10 donation). 

About the American Red Cross 

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross.