Ocean County health officials help those in need of heat keep warm
This weeks freezing temperatures aren't likely the last time we'll see code blue alerts activated over the next couple of months in New Jersey.
The Code Blue activation period runs from November 1st until March 1st with the greatest risk of frigid temps coming between December and February and peaking in January, considered the coldest month, according to the Code Blue legislation passed in May.
Warming centers are offered to the homeless on bad weather days, but Director of the Ocean County Department of Human Services Tracy Maksel says their Code Blue program offers shelter to the homeless year round.
"We try to help out the at-risk populations as best and as often as we can and continue to understand what the needs are in the community," Maksel said.
Their Code Blue Program falls under the Code Blue law that was sponsored by Assemblyman R. Bruce Land and Bob Andrzejczak that requires every county to provide the homeless with shelter during severe weather and dangerous temperatures.
A Code Blue will be issued by all Jersey counties in accordance with the DHS during these conditions that in the winter (and this week especially) include:
- Temperatures will reach 25 degrees Fahrenheit or lower without precipitation.
- Temperatures will reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower with precipitation.
- National Weather Service wind-chill temperature will be zero degrees Fahrenheit or less for a period of two hours or more.
As a result of the law, Maksel, says warming centers open up each night Ocean County OEM officials issue a code blue alert.
"We have a number of what we consider to be, based on the legislation, volunteer organizations that are dedicating their time and resources to the code blue activation's," Maskel said.
She adds that services are provided to all those who walk into one of the Ocean County warming centers open during a Code Blue alert.
However Maksel, says their code blue plan in Ocean County predates the legislation.
"We've had a code blue policy in place in the county for well over 5-years," Maksel said.
She says they go beyond just providing a warm shelter, they offer the at-risk population in Ocean County services to help them turn their fortunes around.
Maksel, says providing these warming centers and aid to the homeless goes beyond their department.
"It's not just human services, it's not just the County OEM or the township OEM...it's all of us working together to make sure that the community needs are met," Maksel said.
She says they're not just looking to provide warming centers but also help them find a better future when they walk outside again.
More From WOBM: