Power outages are very common with most natural disasters. In a power outage you need to know a few things about consuming your stored provisions, and what food that might be left in your freezer and refrigerator. You will also need to get used to preparing food without power. Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to cook without a microwave!
When the electricity goes off:
Use up the perishable food from your refrigerator, pantry, garden, etc. FIRST. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. Refrigerators should be kept at 40° F or below for proper food storage.
THEN, use the foods from the freezer. To limit the number of times you need to open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods should remain safe to eat for at least two days. Check to make sure the seal on your freezer door is still in good condition.
Only after you have exhausted the perishables in your fridge and freezer, then finally dip into the non-perishable foods you have on-hand, followed by those in your emergency supply.
During a power outage, you must take care to preserve and keep safe the food you do have on hand, to reduce your risk of food-borne illness and minimize the amount of food that may be lost due to spoilage.
FEMA reminds homeowners that power outages can occur at any time of the year and it may take from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grows rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.
- Keep food in covered containers.
- Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
- Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose of outside, burying garbage if necessary.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
- Discard any food that has come into contact with contaminated floodwater.
- Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
- Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
- Use ready-to-feed formula, if possible, for formula-fed infants. If using ready-to-feed formula is not possible, it is best to use bottled water to prepare powdered or concentrated formula. If bottled water is not available, use boiled water. Use treated water to prepare formula only if you do not have bottled or boiled water. Breastfed infants should continue breastfeeding.
- Eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
- Eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks normal.
- Let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
Note: Thawed food usually can be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.” It can be re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Cooking Without Power
For emergency cooking indoors, you can use a fireplace. A charcoal grill or camp stove can be used outdoors. You can keep cooked food hot by using candle warmers, chafing dishes, and fondue pots. Use only approved devices for warming food. Canned food can be eaten right out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to open the can and remove the label before heating. Always make sure to extinguish open flames before leaving the room.
NEVER COOK ON A CHARCOAL BBQ GRILL INDOORS BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
When the Lights Come Back On
- Check the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer.
- If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40° F 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° F 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. Keep the door closed as much as possible.
- Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40° F for two hours or more.
Food For Thought
In a survival situation, hunger can have serious psychological and emotional, as well as physical effects. Most people can easily go for a few days without food and not experience any serious impact on their physical and mental capabilities. After that things can get ugly. Long-term lack of access to the normal food supply infrastructure, starts to move from a minor inconvenience to an obsession. For the unprepared and untrained, other considerations become secondary. Panic can set in, and food occupies every wakening moment. Food even becomes the subject of dreams.
When denied access to food for long periods of time, people can become very violent and be eager to take it from others who have it. In the worst case scenarios, people will be ready and willing to kill in order to get to food. This has been known to take place even among friends and relatives during ill-fated expeditions.
As always – PREPARATION IS YOUR POWER OVER PANIC. Knowing how to store, maintain, and otherwise obtain food –can help you to survive in more ways than one.