Health care facilities would be priority for power restoration under NJ measure

Power lines toppled by Superstorm Sandy. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Power lines toppled by Superstorm Sandy. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A bill advancing through the New Jersey Legislature would require state utility regulators to give hospitals and other health care facilities priority when restoring power after a storm.

Electric companies say health care facilities already are among the first customers considered when getting service back to normal after an extended outage, but lawmakers want regulations spelling that out.

John Indyk, vice president of the Health Care Association of New Jersey, said about a third of the nursing care and assisted living facilities in the state lost power during Superstorm Sandy.

“It affected about 20,000 frail, elderly seniors throughout the state in these facilities and, on average, it took about five days to restore power,” Indyk said. “We’re not saying put them back on line first. We understand they may have to work the grid to get closer to them, but just make it a priority.”

There’s plenty of public support for the measure, said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic.

“I don’t think you would get a pushback from most people in a community with life-saving situations, dialysis machines, heart machines, things of that nature, babies’ incubators,” he said. “I think that’s a no-brainer that those should be a priority.”

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