Sen. Mike Doherty and Assemblymen John DiMaio and Erik Peterson, all R-Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset, hosted a storm coordination meeting on January 24th with local mayors and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) personnel from the 23rd Legislative District.
“Maintaining open lines of communications between state and local officials and utility providers is key to minimizing service disruptions during storms and other natural disasters,” said Doherty. “I remain committed to holding the utilities accountable and working with JCP&L to ensure that outages such as those experienced during Sandy do not happen again.”
The meeting was attended by Robert Hanna, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and senior officials from JCP&L.
The forum’s goal was to identify partnerships between local officials and area power companies to improve power restoration response by JCP&L after a major storm event. The meeting was hosted in response to the prolonged power outages, numerous road closures and communication breakdowns that area residents’ experienced after Hurricane Sandy.
“The meeting was very successful and produced a number of ideas for further development and discussion,” said DiMaio, who noted that one proposal put forth was to partner with local Departments of Public Works and power crews to clear major roadways in a more timely manner. “Area mayors and OEM officials were very supportive of this concept and offered their assistance to JCP&L officials.”
“Prolonged power outages are public health and safety issues and effective restoration plans are imperative to public safety. This forum was a positive first step in laying the ground work for a comprehensive plan to efficiently and effectively deal with major storm events,” stated Peterson. “It is essential that we have a methodical approach to deal with large scale power outages. Roadways need to be opened for first responders and power customers need realistic forecasts concerning power restoration so that they can plan accordingly.”
Last week, the BPU approved 103 storm response measures New Jersey public utilities must adhere to before the next major storm event occurs. The storm improvement orders consist of the following: preparedness efforts, communications, restoration and response, post-event and underlying infrastructure issues.
JCP&L was widely criticized for its failure to give customers a timeframe for the restoration of power following Sandy. One of the measures approved by the BPU that takes effect in 120 days, requires the state’s four utilities to provide customers with an estimated power restoration time 24 hours after a major-event outage.
JCP&L informed those in attendance at the January 24th meeting that the company is working on implementing a number of new initiatives to improve lines of communication and overall service. JCP&L will be adding new computers to its fleet of trucks to improve information flow, unveiling a new mobile app and hosting a series of individual meetings with local mayors. Also, the company will be making significant investments in its existing infrastructure.