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TCNJ, PSE&G, and Ewing Township first responders conduct gas emergency response exercise

The College of New Jersey and Public Service Electric and Gas Company, New Jersey’s largest utility, conducted a gas safety exercise with Ewing Township police, fire and emergency medical services today.

During the exercise, PSE&G simulated: damage to an underground gas line and underground electrical lines; a major power outage; and an on-campus explosion – all while practicing a coordinated response with other first responders. The exercise, on TCNJ’s campus, provided the added opportunity to interact with a diversity of faculty, staff, and students.

“PSE&G regularly performs simulated gas leak exercises to test and enhance communication protocols and logistics. We’re pleased to conduct our fourth drill this year on a college campus,” said Joe Martillotti, PSE&G’s senior director, gas field operations. “Conducting a full-scale drill enables us to prepare for worst case scenarios and learn from each other — ensuring a coordinated response when it is not an exercise.”

PSE&G responds to an average of 260 calls per day about potential gas leaks and had 819 incidents last year from damage by an excavator. The utility responds to 99.9 percent of these calls within one hour. Many of these leaks are avoidable with a simple call to 811 to request a mark out of underground pipes and cables before digging.

Protocols for responding to a gas leak are different from responding to a fire. For example, the evacuation distance is further for a gas emergency, cutting power may not be possible, and automatic generators or solar panels can be potential sources of ignition.

“Our top priority is to protect our campus community and there is no better way to prepare for emergencies than to simulate them and train our responders and campus personnel to react accordingly,” said Tim Grant, chief of TCNJ Police Services. “Having this exercise on our campus provides invaluable, real-time data and information to help us ensure we are as prepared as possible in the case of an actual emergency.”

TCNJ, New Jersey’s oldest public college, enrolls approximately 7,500 students. Its campus occupies 289 acres in Ewing Township, New Jersey.

“Ewing Township’s emergency personnel are always prepared and ready to assist the TCNJ community during emergencies,” said Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann. “This drill provides us an opportunity to continue working with the campus staff and PSE&G in training and preparing for a gas emergency. Ewing, unfortunately, is familiar with gas emergencies, having experienced the 2014 tragedy. We’ve learned a lot since, and this exercise gives our personnel another chance to enhance their skills and work together with outside agencies such as PSE&G.”

Prevention is key:

  • Contractors, excavators and customers should always call 811 to request that utility lines be located and marked before digging, to avoid hitting underground pipelines, conduits, wires and cables. This service is free, and critical to avoid injuries and disruptions to vital utility services. If there is excavation work occurring on your property, customers should always make sure that a contractor has called 811 before starting work. Every digging project, even a small project like planting a tree or building a deck with hand tools, requires a call to 811.

What to do if you smell gas:

  • Quickly open windows and doors to ventilate the building.
  • Leave the building as quickly as possible and move well away from the structure. Take all others with you. If you smell gas outside, move well away from where you suspect the gas is leaking.
  • Call PSE&G immediately at 1-800-880-PSEG (7734) and call 911.