At the end of last week, during that brutal cold snap we had, several New Jersey counties declared Code Blue Alerts and opened warming centers for residents who didn’t have heat and needed to take shelter.

According to Melissa Acree, director of business development and training for NJ 211, when temperatures drop below freezing, county emergency management offices, or even specific municipal OEMs may declare a Code Blue Alert and open a warming center.

“If people want to find out information about warming centers that are operational in their area they can call us at 211, and we can look up the country that they’re in, and any information about the warming centers that are open — where they are, the exact hours, and the days they will be open,” she said.

Acree noted people can also go to's warming centers page

When you log on you can also launch a live chat to get information as well.

“We’re accessible 24/7 so people can always reach us,” she said.

She said NJ 211, a subsidiary of the United Ways of New Jersey, works with private and government departments and agencies, providing information and connecting New Jerseyans with several different services.

“If a county or municipal office of emergency management declares a Code Blue Alert and they contact us, we then go to our website, we update the listing, we make sure we inform all of our call specialists, and this information is constantly updated,” she said.

She said some warming centers will also provide special accommodations for individuals with different medical conditions, and usually telephone numbers will be provided for those types of requests.

In addition to providing information about warming centers, NJ 211 offers information about a variety of health and human service needs.

“We take calls from individuals needing help with housing, food, and clothing,” she said.

“We work also with the state office of emergency management should there be any type of disasters in our state. We can be a portal to give residents information about what they can do, where they need to go, before, during and after a disaster," she said.

She said the bottom line is NJ 211 is focused on “connecting the residents of New Jersey with the many social service and county and state programs that are available that will meet their needs.”

Once a Code Blue Alert is declared, authorities are also able to take homeless adults to shelter programs that have agreed to make additional beds available.

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