Utilities may have to notify N.J. customers directly of extended outages

Utility companies in New Jersey will have to do a better job of communicating with customers during emergencies if a measure advanced by an Assembly committee becomes law.

The bill would require cable TV, telecom, gas, and electric companies to submit a written request annually to each customer to make sure there is a backup phone number or email address to provide notifications about prolonged interruptions in service.

Assemblyman Joe Cryan says that would help avoid the kind of confusion that occurred during Sandy.

“I stood outside and talked to my neighbors probably more than I ever have in the past few years, but I suspect I wasn’t the only person in New Jersey who did that during the outages,” said Cryan, D-Union. “We all shared one thing in common. We didn’t know when the power would be back on yet we all paid the same power company. They did a great job of notifying elected officials, but everybody should know.”

Notification would allow residents to decide whether to stay somewhere else if a utility company expects it would take a long time to restore service, Cryan said.

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