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Weather Emergency Communication Bill Advances

New Jerseyans would receive information more quickly and effectively during weather emergencies under a bill that’s been released from the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

Waves break in front of a destroyed amusement park wrecked by Hurricane Sandy on October 31, 2012 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“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 Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, bill co-sponsor.  “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.”

Disaster Information Access Act

The legislation creates the Disaster Information Access Act that would require certain providers of electric, natural gas and water service 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 needed.  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 Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, who co-sponsored the bill.  “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 measure, the provider must report information pertaining to service interruptions within 24 hours.  The information should include the provider’s work to restore interrupted service and factors that may delay or hinder restoration of service.

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