Trenton – The Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Richard Codey and Shirley Turner to create a pilot program that establishes a “Code Red” alert which would provide shelter to at-risk individuals, such as people experiencing homelessness, during periods of dangerously hot weather.
“We currently have a ‘Code Blue’ system in place to offer shelter to those in need when temperatures become dangerously low, and with a general increase in extremely warm weather it is increasingly necessary to offer the same shelter when it is dangerously hot,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris). “Heat-related emergencies can be just as deadly as the cold, especially for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. We must protect everyone from extreme weather, no matter what form that weather comes in.”
In the United States, extreme heat contributes to at least 1,500 deaths annually, with advocate estimates suggesting roughly half of those deaths are among the homeless. Extreme heat routinely causes people to die of thirst or heat stroke, deaths that are often preventable if appropriate shelter is provided.
“According to the most recent State data, there are roughly 10,200 people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey, a sharp increase from 2022’s approximately 8,700,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Of that group, almost half have a disability, including respiratory issues that make them even more susceptible to heat. Basic shelter can save their lives, and it is our job to put a system in place to support the provision of that shelter.”
Under the bill, S-2429, county governments would be responsible for establishing a pilot program in the form of a three-year plan for the issuance of “Code Red” alerts to municipalities, social service agencies, and non-profit groups. These alerts would be issued if the heat index is forecast to reach 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two consecutive days, or when the temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above for any length of time.
The bill passed in a 7-0 vote.