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Barnes & DeAngelo Bill Creating Disaster Information Act Encouraging Frequent Updates, Advisories during Severe Weather Advances

TRENTON) – The Assembly Telecommunications Committee on Thursday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Peter J. Barnes III and Wayne P. DeAngelo to establish guidelines for service providers and the state to disseminate information in future weather emergencies.
“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). “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.”
The bill (A-3475) creates 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.
“Residents are always better served when they have frequent updates and advisories than when they do not,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “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. 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.”
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.
The measure was released by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.