PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Public Service Electric and Gas Company, along with City of Plainfield first responders, participated in a safety exercise to simulate a gas emergency on Monday. The drill took place near Leland Park, and a command center was set up in front of Cook Elementary School. The training exercise, held during National Safety Month, was the first of three full-scale gas safety exercises PSE&G has planned for 2019.
Joseph G. Martillotti, a Senior Director in Gas Field Operations, told TAPinto Plainfield, "What we're doing is simulating a gas emergency right here on Leland Avenue. An excavator struck one of our underground lines, so that causes gas to leak. Now, we are called and we have to respond, but what we're doing today is working along with the Plainfield town, EMS, police and fire, and Union County Public Safety to work together because if it results in an explosion, what happens is you have to ensure that you follow all the site logistics, the response protocols, and then coordinate the response in one unified incident command. That's the important thing."
He added, "We've been learning over the years; prior to this, we would do our thing, they would do their thing, and sometimes there was not a coordinated response. This allows us to have that coordinated response, everyone knows their role, and the most important thing with a gas emergency is to keep the public back. If anyone in the public experiences a gas leak, the first thing they should do is ventilate, evacuate, and then call 911 and call PSE&G."
Martillotti said PSE&G experienced over 850 damages in 2018 to underground gas pipes by excavators within their service areas in New Jersey. He said contractors, excavators and customers should call the utility company to request a mark of underground pipes and cables prior to digging.
For the safety exercise, PSE&G placed yellow cones in different sizes at homes in the drill area to indicate the level of gas because it can migrate and go underground through ductwork and drains. Actors in blue vests played the role of residents who were evacuated by first responders. In real situations, there is a 330-foot hot zone.
The coordinated effort included Plainfield firefighters and police officers, OEM, and members of the Plainfield Rescue Squad, among other safety organizations.
Watch: The operator of the excavator (portrayed by a PSE&G employee) is interviewed, saying she knows the area and didn't need a mark out.
Efforts to educate the public on gas safety awareness include issuing press releases, adding inserts in customers' bills, running radio ads, and working with fire academies and firehouses.
The utility company also conducts seminars in schools. Earlier this year, PSE&G representatives visited Jefferson Elementary School and Cedarbrook K-8 Center in Plainfield.
In a press release from PSE&G, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said, "We cannot afford to be reactive in critical situations such as these; proactive planning is absolutely the best way to be prepared. I commend PSE&G for taking steps to ensure that our first responders and community are aware of the potential dangers, and are trained on how to handle a potential crisis."
According to PSE&G, if you smell gas, quickly open windows and doors for ventilation; leave the building as quickly as possible and move well away from the structure; and immediately call 911 and PSE&G at 1-800-880-PSEG.
If you plan to dig, call 811 to request that utility lines be located and marked to avoid hitting underground pipelines, conduits, wires and cables. The service is free, and can help avoid injuries and interruptions in services.
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