The Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is making final storm preparations to deal with the potential for significant equipment damage and extended customer outages as a result of Hurricane Irene.
“Our state has never before experienced a storm of this magnitude,” said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president and CEO. “PSE&G will have about 6,000 employees supporting the restoration effort, including 840 linemen and 540 tree contractors available to respond to outages once the hurricane pulls away. While our electric system has been recognized as the most reliable in the nation, we expect significant damage from the extraordinary wind and rain expected to pummel New Jersey this weekend. Full restoration could take between one and three weeks.”
“The safety of our customers and employees is first and foremost, he added. “We will begin restoring service as soon as conditions are safe to do so. We appreciate the patience and cooperation of our customers as we deal with what may be an unprecedented event.”
In addition to widespread electric outages, PSE&G expects the heavy rain and predicted storm surge to result in gas outages. Water could enter the utility’s gas distribution system, as well as flood customers’ basements and gas appliances.
Customers are reminded to call PSE&G to report gas odors, and contact their local fire department and municipal construction office to receive assistance in pumping the water out of their basements.
Electric crews work to restore power to the largest numbers of customers first, taking into account “priority” customers, such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, water and sewer facilities, communications facilities (TV, radio, and telephone), and customers on life-sustaining medical equipment. At the same time, the utility restores power to homes and businesses, starting with the circuits serving the largest number of customers.
To report downed wires or power outages, customers should call PSE&G’s Customer Service line at 1-800-436-PSEG. PSE&G uses an automated system to handle customer calls as efficiently as possible.
Customers who get an automated response when calling PSE&G are encouraged to use it, as it is designed to route their calls to the right destination quickly, according to the company. The system also provides the option to speak directly to a customer service representative. If you have specific information regarding damage to wires, transformers or poles, PSE&G asks that you speak with a representative.
Customers with a handheld device, or who are at an alternate location with power, can also report power outages and view the status of their outage by logging in to “My Account” at pseg.com. General outage activity throughout our service territory is available online at www.pseg.com/outagecenter and updates are posted on pseg.com during severe weather.
If outages are widespread, the utility will activate its Twitter page to keep the public informed about our restoration progress. Sign up as a follower at http://twitter.com/psegoutageinfo to monitor restoration progress.
PSE&G stresses the following important information for customers:
DOWNED POWER LINES
Heavy rain and strong winds can cause power lines to come down. Downed wires may appear dead but should always be considered “live.” STAY AWAY FROM ALL DOWNED LINES . Do not approach or drive over a downed line and do not touch anything that it might be in contact with. Parents are urged to check for downed wires in areas where their children might play and to remind the children to stay far away from any wires. If a wire falls on a vehicle, passengers should stay in the vehicle until help arrives. To report a downed wire, call 1-800-436-PSEG and tell PSE&G the nearest cross street.
CUSTOMERS WITH LIFE-SUSTAINING EQUIPMENT
Individuals who rely on electricity to operate life-sustaining electronic equipment, such as a respirator or dialysis machine, should pre-register with PSE&G to receive priority attention in the event of an outage. To request the service, call PSE&G at 1-800-436-PSEG. They should also inform their rescue squads and fire departments of their needs, in case of emergency. Even though customers with life-sustaining equipment who have registered with PSE&G will receive priority attention during outages, they should also have emergency back-up equipment on hand, since immediate restoration cannot be guaranteed.
IF YOU LOSE POWER
First check your neighborhood. If you are the only one without power, check your fuse box for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses. If that’s not the problem, look outside at the wire between your house and the utility pole. If it is down, report it immediately to PSE&G.
If you lose power:
- KEEP REFRIGERATOR AND FREEZER DOORS CLOSED. Food will stay frozen between 36 and 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer (24 hours in a half-full freezer).
- Know how to open your garage door without the electric opener.
- Remember, electric well and sump pumps will not operate.
- Unplug all motor-driven appliances like refrigerators and freezers and sensitive electronic equipment (like TVs, microwaves and computers) to prevent a possible electrical overload when power is restored.
- Leave one light switch on to indicate when power is restored.
IF YOU USE A PORTABLE ELECTRIC GENERATOR, CAREFULLY READ AND FOLLOW THE MANUAL THAT CAME WITH IT. Be sure your generator is UL-approved, installed by a licensed electrician and inspected by your local electrical inspector. There must be a way to physically disconnect your generator from utility lines. Customers who improperly install, operate or maintain a generator are responsible for any injury or damage suffered by themselves, their neighbors or utility workers.
Flooded basements can pose a genuine safety risk. Below are some steps you can take to help ensure your safety in the event of flooding:
- Be cautious in flooded basements.
- If customers lose electricity and their basement is flooded, notify PSE&G (1-800-436-7734) and call the local fire department to have the basement pumped. Stay away from the breaker box if it’s in a flooded basement. And don’t go into a flooded basement if energized wires are present.
- If water is rising to the height of any gas appliance, the gas supply to the appliance should be turned off. If customers are unable to do so, please contact PSE&G or your local police or fire department for assistance. To restore gas service to appliances call PSE&G (1-800-436-7734) and have the appliances checked for safety and restored to proper operation.
- Customers should call PSE&G (1-800-436-7734) immediately if they smell gas.
Mother Nature can be unpredictable. It’s wise to have an emergency kit on hand year round. Here are some things to include:
- A battery-powered radio.
- A corded telephone (cordless phones will not work if the power is out)
- Flashlights and extra fresh batteries.
- A first-aid kit.
- Bottled water and an adequate supply of non-perishable food.
- A non-electric can opener.
- Matches and candles with holders.
- Extra blankets and sleeping bags.
- A list of emergency phone numbers, including PSE&G’s Customer Service line: 1-800-436-PSEG. Call this number to report power outages or downed wires.