N.J. Regulators Outline Storm Response Rules

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

Utility regulators on Thursday outlined new recommendations aimed at improving response times to power outages in the state.

The new rules include requiring electric companies to provide customers with time frames for power restoration 24 hours after major outages, such as those that occurred after Superstorm Sandy. And within 48 hours, utilities will have to start giving emergency management officials daily updates on how many outages their towns have and how many customers can expect service restored that day.

Officials from the Board of Public Utilities, the agency entrusted with overseeing providers of services such as natural gas, electricity, water and telecommunications, testified before an Assembly panel Thursday about the 103 measures that were drawn up in response to customer complaints after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy last year.

Sandy, which struck in late October, knocked power out to nearly 3 million customers in New Jersey for up to 13 days. The board is still finalizing the new rules with state utility companies. It aims to implement most of the measures by the start of hurricane season on June 1.

PSE&G, among the largest combined electric and gas companies in the United States, and Jersey Central Power & Light said they are cooperating with the board’s recommendations. Since Sandy, the companies have developed better ways to keep customers updated about their service using social media sites, text messages and emails.

Still, Assemblywoman Donna Simon wanted to know: How are people supposed to communicate when their electricity is out?