How to prepare for this weekend's cold, and where to get help if you need it
With all of Prince Edward Island under an extreme cold warning, preparations are underway to keep residents, their pets and properties safe and warm.
The provincial Emergency Measures Organization is urging residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of frostbite and windburn. Specifically EMO says Islanders should do the folllowing:
Wear appropriate clothing, including layers and protective eyewear.
Limit time outdoors for yourself and your pets, and bring them inside.
Move regularly to maintain body heat.
Keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle when travelling.
Check in on family, friends and neighbours.
Shelters and warming centres
With the extremely cold temperatures expected to develop Friday night and persist into Saturday morning, Islanders without a warm home to go to will be getting some extra help this weekend.
Shelley Cole, supportive housing manager with the province, said they are providing both temporary shelters and transportation to them if required.
"Let's just say, if we had someone in Miscouche who was experiencing a need for temporary shelter we may arrange for a taxi to pick that individual up and transport them to shelter in either Charlottetown or Summerside," said Cole.
Need help? Call the shelter line at 1-833-220-4722
Charlottetown and Cornwall
The Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the Park Street Emergency Shelter will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
A transportation service will be available to take people between the centre and the shelter so that people do not have to walk in the cold.
The Community Outreach Centre plans to have extra staff on hand to serve the anticipated high number of people. They will also open up additional space within the centre and serve hot food — something they do not normally offer.
"We do not duplicate services of the soup kitchen, but this weekend we will be providing some hot food because we know it will be hard for people to walk," said Roxanne Carter-Thompson, executive director of the Adventure Group, which operates the centre.
Hours won't be expanded this weekend at the Park Street Emergency Shelter, and staff are reminding people who regularly use the shelter to let them know if they have found somewhere else to stay.
"We want to see anyone who needs a place to sleep at night has an opportunity to access shelter, appropriate shelter, to meet their needs," said Shelley Cole, supportive housing manager at the Department of Social Development and Housing. "So, if they are unable to use a bed that they have previously reserved we want to be able to turn that bed over and make it available for someone else who is in need."
Chris Clay of the Native Council of P.E.I. also said making sure people stay indoors is the most important thing.
"With this cold, there's a possibility of frostbite, there's many numerous problems, so making sure that everybody is indoors this weekend is going to be our biggest priority."
A provincial news release Wednesday said that in addition to the Park Street emergency shelter, Bedford MacDonald House will be operating overflow beds. And it said arrangements have been made for additional beds if the shelter is at capacity, but did not indicate where those beds would be located.
Also in Charlottetown, the Salvation Army will be open Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those needing to get out of the cold. They will be serving coffee, tea, sweets and muffins.
Charlottetown Mutual Aid will also open a warming centre in Jack Blanchard Hall at 7 Pond Street, from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday, with coffee, tea and snacks provided.
The Cornwall Christian Church at 578 Main Street will also be open as a warming centre from 8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday.
Summerside and Three Rivers
The City of Summerside will open a warming centre at the Station 1 Fire Hall. It will open at 7 p.m. Friday.
In Three Rivers, volunteers will open a shelter at the Montague Bible Fellowship Church at 123 Sackville Street. It will open at 6 p.m. Friday, with a planned closure time of noon Saturday, but that will be reassessed if it needs to stay open longer.
Three Rivers Mayor Debbie Johnston said there are about five people who are experiencing homelessness in Three Rivers but they have capacity to take in others.
"It's been thrown together pretty quickly but we're confident we can do a decent job and at least provide a warm place," she said. "This is not really an EMO situation so everything is already booked so we made arrangements with this church."
Johnston said they have asked the Red Cross for cots, and will have support from the fire department and police.
The province has said taxi services will be available to take anyone in distress to a warm location, and that people needing help can call the shelter support line at 1-833-220-4722.
The P.E.l. fire marshal is urging Islanders to use caution to prevent fires during this upcoming cold snap.
Dave Rossiter said many Island homes have recently had heat pumps installed and some units may not be as efficient in extremely cold weather. Because of that, some may be looking at ways to get some extra heat.
He says one of the biggest risks lies with people using space heaters improperly and offered this advice:
Use a space heater that has been tested and labelled by a nationally recognized testing company.
Keep the heater three feet away from flammable materials, like drapes and furniture.
Avoid using extension cords. Or if you have to use one, make sure it is heavy duty and has the correct power rating.
Never leave a space heater unattended or running while you sleep, or use one near water.