Harrison first responders, PSE&G workers train for potential gas emergency at Red Bull Arena

Harrison first responders are all very well trained. But some had a rare chance to train along with PSE&G workers on a potential gas emergency.

The four-hour exercise that took place May 20 allowed PSE&G and local safety professionals to practice keeping the public safe in the event of a heavy natural gas odor outdoors. The exercise, at Red Bull Arena, also provided the opportunity to test incident command and evacuation procedures.

“Safeguarding our communities, customers and employees is our top priority,” Brian Clark, vice president, PSE&G Gas Operations, said. “These exercises enhance our emergency response and coordination to protect lives effectively.”

Harrison Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Faugno said: “Today’s drill was truly a collaborative effort between the Town of Harrison and PSE&G to ensure our first responders are aware of the potential dangers, and properly trained on how to handle a crisis. Proactive planning like this is essential for safety. These drills aren’t just about practice — they’re about safeguarding our communities and responders. By coordinating with local agencies and conducting realistic scenarios, we enhance our readiness for worst-case situations.”

In 2023, PSE&G responded to 853 calls with excavation damages (736 gas and 117 electric). The utility responds to 99.9% of gas emergency calls within an hour. Many leaks are avoidable, the utility says, with a call to 811 to request a free markout of underground pipes and cables before digging. Digging without knowledge of the location of underground utilities can result in serious injuries, service disruptions and costly repairs.

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, turning off power may not be possible and automatic generators or solar panels could be potential sources of ignition.

Trainees also included representatives from PSE&G, the Harrison Police Department, Harrison Emergency Medical Services, New Jersey Natural Gas, South Jersey Industries, Con Edison, New Jersey Division of Fire Safety and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

This event marked PSE&G’s second gas safety exercise this year, with six more planned.

The utility also offered tips to prevent causing gas leaks or other associated emergencies.

Prevention is key

n Call 811 at least three and no more than 10 business days before each job to have underground pipes, conduits, wires and cables located and marked. Markouts remain valid for 45 business days.

n Before work begins by excavators, contractors or customers, confirm a call to 811 has been made and the markout was completed. By law, all digging projects require a call to 811.

n Property owners and contractors must maintain and respect the marks. Always hand dig within 2 feet of marked lines or the area known as the Tolerance Zone to find the existing facility.

n Various colors are used when marking lines. Learn what each color represents by visiting www.nj1-call.org/resources/faqs/#color.

What to do if you smell gas

n Leave the building as quickly as possible and move 350 feet 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.

n Call 911 immediately and call PSE&G from outside and away from the building at (800) 880-7734.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.