TRENTON, NJ -- In the event of power outages, restoration to essential healthcare facilities will now be prioritized under a new law. The mandate directs the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to create regulations that require electric public utility providers to prioritize power restoration to hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, renal dialysis facilities and any clinical or research laboratories/institutes that store human blood, tissue or DNA in the event of an extensive outage.

Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), a sponsor of the new law, noted that severe weather events disrupt millions of lives, leaving thousands of homes and businesses in the dark.

Last year, Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power to more than 1.4 million buildings, as residents waited up to a week for their power to be restored.

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“When these storms sweep through our State, we must have a plan in place to protect the vulnerable and prioritize the locations with the most urgent needs. Hospitals and long-term care facilities rely on electricity for life-saving equipment, while power loss in laboratories could jeopardize valuable specimens used in the development of life-saving treatments," added Benson. “Requiring utility companies to prioritize these locations will help protect the people of New Jersey whenever severe weather occurs.”

The law specifies, however, that utilities must be able to exercise their discretion to make sure the prioritization of these facilities would not divert attention from areas needing power restoration in order to maintain public safety.

"Thankfully, our members already have detailed priority restoration plans in place and continue to refine restoration protocols," said Tom Churchelow, president of the New Jersey Utilities Association. "They also continue, with the support of our regulators and policymakers, to make investments that enhance system reliability and, with that, are in the best position to continue to employ people and to create jobs at a time they are sorely needed."  

The measure was signed into law on Monday and will take effect in 60 days. 

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