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Turner, McKnight Bill Would Create Code Red Pilot Program to Shelter At-Risk Individuals During Extreme Heat

Trenton – To protect the health and safety of vulnerable populations during hot weather, the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee advanced legislation today sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner and Senator Angela V. McKnight that would create a Code Red alert pilot program that offers shelter during extreme heat events.

“Due to climate change, extreme heat events are becoming more frequent and intense in New Jersey. These heat waves can be dangerous and deadly, especially for those who are elderly or homeless,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Implementing a Code Red alert pilot program that provides air-conditioned spaces and water to the public will build our community’s resilience to extreme heat and save lives.”

Under the bill, S-2346, the 3-year Code Red alert pilot program would be coordinated by a county’s Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with municipal emergency service providers, social service agencies, and certain non-profit organizations that serve homeless populations.

“New Jersey already has a Code Blue program in place for periods of extreme cold. Implementing a Code Red pilot program for the warmer months will expand our strategy to protect individuals during all kinds of extreme temperatures and strengthen public health,” said Senator McKnight (D-Hudson). “This pilot program can alleviate the burden on hospitals treating heat-related illnesses and assist urban areas with larger homeless populations that have limited access to air conditioning.”

A Code Red alert would be issued when the heat index forecasted by the National Weather Service is expected to reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 2 consecutive days, or the temperature is forecast to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more for any length of time.

A county governing body may apply to participate in the pilot program in a manner determined by the State Office of Emergency Management. The State Office of Emergency Management will select 10 counties in the State to participate in the pilot program.

The State Office of Emergency Management would also be required to submit a report to the Governor and Legislature on the program’s success and recommend whether or not to make the program permanent.

The bill advanced out of committee in an 8-0 vote.