August 22, 2019 | 89° F

New Brunswick opens heating centers under "Code Blue"

Photo by Wikimedia |

More than 150 people have found shelter at the Henry Guest House this winter. It has opened 18 times between December 2017 and January 2019 — opening its doors to anyone who needs a warm space to stay during severely cold weather conditions.

New Brunswick will enter a “code blue” the evening of March 7 due to frigid conditions. 

It is 1 of 2 communities in Middlesex county, along with Perth Amboy, that adopted the Code Blue program, according to an article from New Brunswick Today. 

The program was adopted in New Jersey in May 2017 by former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) to ensure the safety of the city during hazardous conditions. 

The law states that New Jersey counties must declare a "code blue" if weather forecasts by the National Weather Service predict that temperatures will drop to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or lower without precipitation or 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower with precipitation. 

It must also report if the National Weather Service windchill temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit or less for a period of 2 hours or more, according to the article. 

New Brunswick opens warming centers when the temperature drops below 20 degrees or if there is at least 6 inches on the ground. The Henry Guest House is one of them.

The Henry Guest House has been a sanctuary during severe weather for more than 150 people this winter. It has opened 18 times between December 2017 and January 2018 to welcome guests who need a warm place to stay for the night, according to the article. The City of New Brunswick website stated that space is limited and the doors will close at capacity or at 9 p.m. 

“The Henry Guest House is the priority site for Code Blue, due to its location, restrooms accommodations and open space to house guests. We have additional designated buildings for Code Blue, but we utilize the Guest House primarily at this time,” said Jennifer Bradshaw, the Public Information Officer for New Brunswick, in the article.

The 20 degree threshold has been controversial among residents. 

“The hard and fast temperature cut off of 20 degrees does little to aid on many frigid nights and instances of inclement weather,” Eric Nuber said at a City Council meeting in January 2017 in the article. 

The program was originally hosted by Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen in New Brunswick but was passed on to New Brunswick after it was determined that a soup kitchen was not an appropriate place to take shelter overnight. 

Bradshaw said the city is working to expand the program to other communities in the state to protect more people without adequate shelter from harsh conditions. 

On Jan. 22, Mayor James Cahill of New Brunswick and Mayor Wilda Diaz of Perth Amboy joined Freeholder Director Ronald Rios at an informational council meeting to advocate for the Code Blue program and encourage other districts to launch their own warming centers. 

The city is always looking for volunteers to assist in greeting guests and supervising the shelters during a “code blue.”

Erica D'Costa

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