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SAFE HOME 101: How to Keep Food Safe in Emergency Situations

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 7:07 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Safe Home 101, Home Safety Month, Salmonella, E. coli, Toxic Substances

Safe Home 101- When the electricity goes out, how to keep food from perishing.

Part of IBs-SAFE HOME 101 Series during June- Home Safety Month

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IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockPhoto/ Safe Home 101/author: cookelma

 

When emergency situations strike, second to making sure family and pets are safe, most people usually hope to salvage food in the refrigerator not knowing when they may be able to get out and buy more.

Power outages can occur any time during the year and often times can take anywhere from a few hours to several days until electricity can be restored. Without electricity, foods stored in refrigerators or freezers can quickly become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow at rapid speeds and if consumed, people can become very sick.

But how do you know if the food is safe? Below we have some helpful tips that will help to minimize the potential for food borne illness due to food spoilage following power outages and other problems that arise following severe weather events.

Emergency Food Preparation and Safety:

First and foremost, do not consume food to determine if it is good or not. When in doubt, toss it. Even the smallest amounts of contaminated foods can be deadly. It is best to veer on the side of caution when it comes to your health and safety.

Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F or below for frozen foods. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below for fish, meat, poultry and eggs.

Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible to maintain cold temperatures for as long as possible. If unopened, the food will stay cold for up to 4 hours. A full freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours (about 24 hours if only half full) but only if the doors have remained shut.

Plan ahead and know where to purchase block ice and dry ice as they will help to keep food colder for a longer duration of time (fifty pounds up to 2 days on a full freezer).

Freeze containers of water to be used for ice to keep food cold in the freezer or cooler.

In cases of flooding, store food in areas that will be up and out of the way of contaminated water.

Emergency Items that Every Household Should Have:

An appliance thermometer is a handy gadget to have in emergency situations. If you experience a power outage an appliance thermometer will indicate the temperate of the appliance and help to determine the safety of the food.

Having a couple coolers on hand are especially helpful. They can keep food cold for up to 4 hours. Purchase extra ice and gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.

A hand-held can opener is essential in these situations. As well as typical items such a candles, batteries, flash lights etc.

Buy nonperishable food items that do not require refrigeration and can be eaten as is or heated on a grill outdoors. Items such as boxed or canned milk, water and a variety of canned goods should be included on your emergency food supply list.

Safety after the Storm:

Discard all perishable food items such as deli meats, eggs, milk, poultry and fish after four or more hours without power.

Food not kept in a waterproof container should be discarded if there is a chance it has come into contact with water. Wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers should also be discarded.

If flooding has occurred, drink only bottled water.

Always discard food from containers that display signs of botulism: rusting, bulging leaking or dented cans; cracked jars or jars that have bulging lids; canned foods that have a foul odor or any container that sprays liquid upon opening.

This is by no means a complete list of safety measures as there are many different types of severe weather events that can occur, but it’s a good place to start as floods, storms and hurricanes are common in many places.

The USDA has put together an Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheet that will help you to discern what food items are good and for how long amongst other helpful tips. #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Andrea
Thursday, June 19, 2008 9:35 AM EST

We lost power and the hardware store was out of generators. Luckily we searched and found one at mainpowerconnect.com; we should now have the power needed when the next unexpected outage comes. The generator will keep the lights on, food cold and our air conditioning working. Hopefully the generator will also keep our sump pump working to protect the basement from flooding.

Comments for this article are closed.

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