TRENTON – State Sen. Linda R. Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) today introduced legislation to protect residents of retirement communities during an emergency by requiring the installation of electrical generators in common areas of the development, such as community rooms or clubhouses, for their use as shelters during long periods without power.
“Hurricane Sandy created damage and devastation like we have never experienced, but it also has provided critical lessons for our state in terms of how we prepare for emergencies going forward. One thing we’re learning is that we have to do a better job of ensuring that senior and retirement communities are equipped for these kinds of emergencies, especially for those resulting in long periods without power,” said Greenstein. “The fact is, many individuals living in these developments are dealing with mobility or other health-related issues, and may not be able to easily access a local public shelter. In times of crisis, having a facility nearby that is powered with heat and electricity and can serve as a shelter for the immediate area makes sense from both a health and a safety perspective.”
The legislation would require an existing or newly-constructed retirement subdivision or retirement community to install an electric generator to provide electricity to a common use area, such as a community room or clubhouse, for the purpose of using it as a shelter in case of an emergency. Any standby emergency power generator installed under the bill would be required to have a minimum run capacity of 14 consecutive days and be operated in compliance with requirements for such generators under Department of Environmental Protection regulations. A generator would be required to be checked weekly, tested under load monthly and serviced in accordance with generally accepted engineering, under the bill.
The bill would provide that a standby generator installed under the bill shall be operated only when necessary to provide power to a common use area when used as a shelter in the case of an emergency in order to protect the general health and welfare of the subdivision or community residents which would be under substantial risk in a continued power outage. The Board of Public Utilities would develop and administer a program to provide grants and low-interest loans for the purpose of ensuring that existing retirement subdivisions and communities can comply with the bill. The senator said she also expects that other sources of funding, such as resources provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), could be used to retrofit existing retirement subdivisions and communities.
The bill was introduced today. It has not yet been referred to a Senate committee.