Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration, MEMA, Local Officials and Columbia Gas Remind Impacted Customers of Available Housing Options and Provide Home Safety Tips

Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571
For immediate release:
10/17/2018
  • Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
  • Department of Fire Services
  • Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
  • Governor's Press Office

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration, MEMA, Local Officials and Columbia Gas Remind Impacted Customers of Available Housing Options and Provide Home Safety Tips

Christopher Besse, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency

Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571

LAWRENCEAs temperatures turn colder, the Baker-Polito Administration, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Mayor Rivera, Town Managers Maylor and Flanagan and Columbia Gas encourage impacted customers who are without heat in their homes to seek available alternative housing options, such as hotels, apartments and trailers, if needed. Customers who choose to stay in their homes are asked to take steps to keep warm and safe while they are without heat.

While residents are strongly encouraged to seek alternative housing during cold weather, MEMA has also issued guidance for those who choose to stay in their homes regarding ways to stay warm and, in coordination with the Department of Fire Services, has issued tips for home fire safety. Residents should not use space heaters if their homes were inspected by an electrician and deemed unsafe for space heater use.

Daytime temperatures in the greater Lawrence area over the next week are forecast to be in the 40s and 50s while overnight lows are forecast to be in the 30s and 40s. As announced on October 5th, alternative housing is available to customers impacted by the September 13th gas line incident who choose not to stay in their homes as the weather turns colder. 

“We encourage residents, particularly our most vulnerable populations, to seek alternative housing options if you cannot stay warm in your home as temperatures drop,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The team of utility workers, state and local staff will continue to work nonstop to offer services and make repairs, so that families and businesses can safely return to normalcy as soon as possible.  Those choosing to stay home should refrain from using space heaters if electricians or fire officials have determined that they are unsafe for your home and review MEMA’s safety tips.”

“As the weather turns colder, MEMA continues to work closely with Columbia Gas and the impacted communities to ensure that alternative housing options are available for those in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover who do not have heat in their homes,” said MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz. “People do not need to be cold in their homes; hotel rooms, apartments and trailers are available for immediate occupancy by calling Columbia Gas, and a warming center with hot showers is available during the daytime.”

“The fire service is very concerned about fire safety during this difficult time. It is important to protect your family and your neighbors by making sure smoke alarms are working and being especially careful when cooking, heating and using electrical appliances,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey.

“The team is working around the clock on the construction and recovery process to restore service for impacted residents by November 19,” said Joe Albanese, Chief Recovery Officer for the Greater Lawrence restoration project as appointed by Governor Baker. “As temperatures turn colder, we encourage residents to review the advice from MEMA and state officials on tips to stay warm and seek alternative housing options, especially for the most vulnerable populations like the elderly and small children.  If your dwelling was inspected by a first responder or electrician and deemed unsafe for a space heater, we remind residents to heed this advice to avoid fire hazards and look to a more suitable housing option for your safety and comfort.”

“I encourage any affected resident in Lawrence, especially any with families with children and elderly residents, to call the housing hotline at 1-800-590-5571 to seek alternate shelter NOW! As the temperatures drop, alternative housing is the only way to ensure you and your loved ones are safe and warm.” said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

"Although we remain optimistic that Columbia Gas will restore heat by November 19th, the temperature has already begun to drop and will likely continue to do so in the coming weeks.  There are alternative housing options. Please explore those options now and avoid steps such as using multiple space heaters which may create a safety risk," said North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor.

“Providing housing to those in need is our priority as we plan for the coming weeks. Colder weather is imminent and I encourage residents to take advantage of the alternative housing options that are available,” said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. “We will continue to provide the appropriate resources necessary to meet whatever the demand may be and will remain committed to helping our residents get through this period while Columbia Gas and its partners complete the necessary work to restore gas service.”

 

Housing Alternatives

Customers without heat who feel that it is too cold to stay in their homes, particularly the most vulnerable customers, including the elderly, families with young children, and people who have access and functional needs or medical conditions are encouraged to request alternative housing from Columbia Gas. Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571. A member of the Housing Assistance Team will gather information from the customer, including information about access and functional needs, size and family makeup, and individual and family needs.  This information will be used to identify housing options for customers.  Columbia’s Housing Assistance Claim Team will offer customers one of the available housing options including hotel rooms, apartments, travel trailers, and congregate sheltering.

Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents staying in hotels and apartments who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services.  Information will be provided to residents during the placement process.

Impacted customers who need immediate relief from cold temperatures can go to the combination warming center and congregate shelter located at IndusPAD, 46 Stafford St. in Lawrence. Columbia Gas customers can visit the shelter during the daytime for hot showers and to use it as a warming center.  The overnight shelter includes cots for sleeping and the shelter will be used to meet short-term demand due to cold weather. Impacted customers can go to this site for immediate shelter at any time of day and can do so without a referral placement from Columbia Gas.

 

Staying Warm If You Choose to Remain in Your Home

While customers are encouraged to use alternative housing if needed, customers who are still in their homes are reminded that there are ways to reduce the impacts of cold temperatures in your home. If these tips are not enough to keep you warm in your home, call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571 for housing assistance.

  • Weather proof your home by adding weather stripping to exterior doors, stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors or around window frames to block drafts, and insulating windows with do-it-yourself insulating film.
  • Close curtains at night, and keep them open during sunny days. Cover windows and external doors with extra blankets or sheets to retain heat.
  • If some rooms are heated with electric baseboard heaters or space heaters, centralize activities in the heated rooms and close doors to unheated rooms and hang blankets across hallways.
  • Know the symptoms of, and watch out for cold-related illnesses. Call 9-1-1 to report emergencies.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions, and those who may need extra help.

 

Staying Safe If You Choose to Remain in Your Home

While customers are encouraged to use alternative housing if needed, customers who are still in their homes are reminded to use appliances, space heaters, and alternative heating sources safely to prevent fires and carbon monoxide emergencies. Customers who cannot follow these safety tips should not risk fires or carbon monoxide poisoning - - call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571 for housing assistance.

  • Make sure there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home and outside each bedroom.
  • Keep space heaters three-feet away from anything that can catch fire. Do not put clothes or anything on the heater and keep children 3-feet away from the heater.
  • Plug space heaters, hot plates, electric skillets or other alternative heating sources directly into the wall; do not use extension cords or power strips.
  • If your home was inspected by an electrician and deemed unsafe for space heater use, do not use one. Doing so could cause an electrical fire.
  • If a space heater, hot plate, or other device trips the breaker or blows a fuse, stop using it right away and call an electrician or ask the landlord to so. More heating safety tips: www.mass.gov/KeepWarmKeepSafe.
  • Practice cooking safety by standing by your pan while cooking, keeping children 3-feet away from cooking appliances, and turn appliances off when not in use. More cooking safety tips.
  • Do not use stoves or cooking appliances for heat which can cause fires.

More tips to stay warm and safe in English and Spanish.

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Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration, MEMA, Local Officials and Columbia Gas Remind Impacted Customers of Available Housing Options and Provide Home Safety Tips

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