(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Peter J. Barnes III, Wayne P. DeAngelo, Timothy J. Eustace, Connie Wagner and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to establish guidelines for service providers and the state to disseminate information in future weather emergencies was passed by the full Assembly.
"During Sandy, thousands of residents were without gas, power and other services for days and, also, without any information on when any of these services would be restored," said Barnes (D-Middlesex).
"Residents are always better served when they have frequent updates and advisories than when they do not. This legislation will help keep residents informed during emergencies," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex).
The bill (A-3475) would create the Disaster Information Access Act that would require certain providers of electric, natural gas, and water service provider to report service interruptions that occur in connection with a major catastrophic event to the State Office of Emergency Management and to mayors or other municipal chief executives, as appropriate. It also would direct the information to governing bodies of affected towns and county freeholders of affected counties.
"Sandy was the first storm this great in size and power New Jersey has seen in all of state history. It is extremely important to have a statewide plan in place that will help keep residents informed during weather emergencies like Sandy," Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic).
"One lesson we should take away from Superstorm Sandy's widespread impact is that we need to work harder and become better prepared for emergencies. This legislation is a move in the right direction," said Wagner (D-Bergen, Passaic).
Under the bill, the provider must, within 24 hours of a major catastrophic event, report information pertaining to service interruptions occurring in connection with the event within the provider's operating area. The report would include information in connection with: (1) the provider's work to restore interrupted service, including plans for ongoing work in all the affected areas and (2) factors that may hinder or delay restoration of service.
"In a severe storm or other weather event, it is critical to have a strategic response ready and ensure that important information is getting directly into the hands of the most important people, the residents," Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
The provides that "Major catastrophic event" is defined to mean a natural or humanly caused occurrence arising from conditions beyond the control of the provider, including, but not limited to, a terrorist attack, thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane, flood, heat wave, snowstorm or ice storm, or an earthquake, which results in a sustained interruption of service to at least 10 percent of the customers in an operating area or 10 percent of the customers of a municipality or county located in an operating area; or the declaration of a state of emergency or disaster by the Governor or by the President.
The measure was approved 78-0. It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.