(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrat Bob Andrzejczak (D-Cape May, Atlantic, Cumberland) has introduced legislation to provide New Jersey’s homeless and at-risk residents safe haven during severe weather occurrences such as extreme cold, heat or sustained precipitation and wind.
“Freezing and record-breaking heat temperatures can cause life threatening conditions for residents without sufficient shelter,” said Andrzejczak. “A code blue program is essential to helping many residents to find shelter when extreme weather hits. When the resources are available, we should use them to protect those who are having a hard time in severe weather.”
The bill (A-4555) requires county emergency management coordinators to establish a Code Blue Program for at-risk individuals who require shelter during a severe weather event. The purpose of the Code Blue Program is to identify at-risk individuals prior to, or during, a severe weather event and assist those individuals in voluntarily finding appropriate shelter.
In the bill, an at-risk individual is an individual living outside, or in a building not meant for human habitation or which the person has no legal right to occupy. In addition, the phrase “severe weather event” is defined to include a snow emergency, excessive cold or heat, storms or other weather-related conditions, which may include temperatures equal to or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Homeless individuals and families are most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions,” said Andrzejczak. “We should have a weather response plan in place to aid residents in times of life-threatening heat, cold and storms. Planning ahead will allow us to provide relief when the weather is at its worst for residents who truly need it.”
Under the Code Blue Program, county emergency management coordinators are required to declare a code blue alert within 24 hours prior to the onset of a severe weather event. When a code blue alert is declared, the county emergency management coordinator is to inform each municipal law enforcement agency in that county as well as the county police department, if appropriate, of the need to identify and locate at-risk individuals who may be in need of shelter.
The bill also requires each county office of emergency management to conduct a public awareness campaign, utilizing the Internet and any other available resources, to inform the general public of the code blue program and the importance of identifying at-risk individuals prior to severe weather events so that appropriate shelter preparations may be made.
The bill was introduced on June 15. It has been referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.