Recovering From Sandy10/31/12
- Power Outages
- Road Conditions
- Water Conservation
- Price Gouging
- Food Safety
- The Governor’s State of Emergency Executive Order
Recovering From Sandy
“The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is extremely serious, if not historic. We all offer our thanks to our first responders, public works departments and all county and municipal emergency personnel (OEM) and volunteers for their efforts to assist residents. We are grateful for the tireless service of members of the New Jersey National Guard and we commend the Governor for his strong leadership and clear communication which saved many lives and will now speed recovery.
“If you experience an emergency, please contact your local police department first. They will be in contact and with local OEM officials who, in turn, can marshal the resources of the county OEM.
“Of course, the major problem facing residents and businesses is the lack of electricity. Our public utilities report that they are working to bring people back on line as quickly as possible. They have brought out-of-state crews in to our region to assist, but clearly, the recovery will take time.
“In the days and weeks to come, I will continue doing everything I can to secure all available federal help to assist residents with resources, information and support. We, literally and figuratively, have a long road ahead of us.
“Please do not hesitate to visit my website for a library of links that you may find useful in the days and weeks ahead.”
FirstEnergy customers without power are encouraged to call 1-888-LIGHTSS (1-888-544-4877) to report their outage or click the “Report Outage” link on www.firstenergycorp.com.
PSE&G asks that you call their Customer Service Line at 1-800-436-PSEG to report an outage.
- Immediately report downed wires to your electric company or local police or fire department.
- Never go near a downed power line, even if you think it’s no longer carrying electricity.
- Don’t try to remove trees or tree limbs from power lines. Wait for utility crews to arrive.
Safety Tips During Outages
- Avoid using candles to light your home, especially around children and pets.
- Never use a gas stove, grill, lantern or heater intended for outdoor use inside your home.
Drivers are advised to stay off of the roads whenever possible and otherwise drive with caution in consideration of the continued threat of downed power lines, trees, branches, and the work of emergency management and utility crews.
When necessary, drivers should follow the rules of the road, stay alert and respect the weather elements and the guidance and orders of emergency management and government officials. Unnecessary travel is not recommended.
Motorists are encouraged to check for current road conditions and closures atthe New Jersey Department of Transportation website:www.NJ511.info.
For more storm preparedness information please log on to: www.ready.nj.gov.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is strongly advising residents to conserve water in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because widespread power outages have forced many public and private water utilities to use emergency generators to treat and pump water.
The DEP is assessing the extent to which water utilities are currently using backup power, however it currently appears that most of the major water utilities in the state are using some degree of backup generation. The DEP is in contact with water purveyors across New Jersey.
The DEP advises residents to adhere to the following:
- Do not use water for any nonessential uses, such as watering of lawns and washing of cars.
- Take showers instead of baths. Keep showers as short as possible.
- Limit flushing of toilets, dishwashing and washing clothes.
- Turn off the faucet when shaving and brushing teeth.
For those who have electrical service, run dishwashers and laundry washing machines only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.
- Check your toilet, faucets, and pipes for leaks and make repairs or shut off water valves to any faucets or toilets that are leaking.
- Use a broom or rake to clean up storm debris, including leaves or pine needles, rather than a hose.
- Keep a supply of drinking water on hand sufficient to last several days.
Since declaring a state of emergency on Saturday, Governor Chris Christie once again issued a forceful reminder to merchants: price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal; will be investigated by the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs; and will result in significant penalties.
As Governor Christie recently said, "During emergencies, New Jerseyans should look out for each other – not seek to take advantage of each other. The State Division of Consumer Affairs is looking closely at any and all complaints about alleged price gouging. Anyone found to have violated the law will face significant penalties."
New Jersey's price gouging statute, N.J.S.A. 56:8-107, et. seq., makes it illegal to set excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency.
Price increases are deemed excessive under the law if they are more than 10 percent above the price at which the good or service was sold during the normal course of business, prior to the state of emergency. The law does allow that, if the merchant faces additional costs imposed by suppliers or legitimate logistical concerns, a price increase is considered excessive if it is more than 10 percent above the amount of markup from cost, compared with the markup normally applied.
As a reminder of the penalties, Governor Christie pointed out the case of a Sussex County gas station accused of raising fuel prices more than 16 percent during the August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene state of emergency. To settle an enforcement action by the Division of Consumer Affairs, that business recently agreed to pay $50,000. (See their press release).
The State Attorney General’s office is “reminding consumers to watch out not just for price gouging, but for the home repair scams and charity scams that often lie in wait when residents seek to recover from storm damage. Disasters unfortunately attract their share of dishonest and shady opportunists. Any consumer who has a complaint about price gouging or any emergency-related scams should call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 862-209-0130 or 973-220-3474. Investigators are checking this phone line throughout the day.”
Violations of the price-gouging law are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct event.
The Division of Consumer Affairs provides tips for consumers on "How To Avoid Disaster-Related Scams" including information on price gouging and on the home-repair scams and charity scams that have been known to arise during times of emergency.
Last year, during and after the State of Emergency declared in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the Division of Consumer Affairs sent investigators out to all affected counties in order to provide information to consumers about price gouging, home repair scams, and charity scams, and to investigate and mediate consumer complaints related to the emergency.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website (http://www.nj.gov/oag/ca/index.htm) or by calling 862-209-0130 or 973-220-3474.
The New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd is urging all residents to throw away any food that may have come in contact with flood or storm waters and individuals that have suffered power outages should keep their refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
Commissioner O'Dowd urged all residents to dispose of any perishable food that may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. Food will stay cold in the refrigerator for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. However, food above 40 degrees for 2 hours or more must be discarded.
"Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.
Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below can be refrozen or cooked. If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it's important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any food borne bacteria that may be present is destroyed.
Information about municipalities that have issued boiled water advisories as well as instructions for safely boiling water for drinking can be found at http://www.nj.gov/health/er/documents/hurricane_health_safety_tips.pdf.
Below are some additional food safety tips to prevent illness during power outages, flooding and hurricane conditions:
- Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off for more than four hours. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two days.
- Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-off caps, snap lids and pull tops.
- Discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
- Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.
- Check to ensure that the freezer temperature is at or below 0 °F and the refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees.
- Wash fruits and vegetableswith water from a safe source before eating.
- For infants, if using formula, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.
- During power outages, the appliance thermometers will indicate the temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer to help you determine if the food is safe.
Once Power is Restored
You'll need to determine the safety of your food. Here's how:
- If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40 degrees or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
- Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
For additional information on food safety and power outages, please visit http://www.nj.gov/health/er/natural.shtml andhttp://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/recovery.asp.