Brief electrical blackouts are not a problem, but occasionally there is a power outage for a length of time due to a severe thunderstorm or other disaster. That is of great concern, especially when it comes to determining the safety of food and water after such a power outage has been corrected.
Be Prepared for an Emergency
Ahead of time, it is important to follow the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to have a disaster supply kit ready. This should contain enough of the following supplies to last at least three days.
- canned and dried food
- extra batteries
- needed prescription medicines
- first-aid supplies
- a digital thermometer
Make sure you do NOT use gas lanterns, candles, or torches during a power outage in order to protect against fire. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, use grills, generators, and similar items outdoors only.
During the Power Outage
- Boiled, bottled, or treated water is the safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. Contaminated water is not to be used to wash or prepare food, wash hands or dishes, brush teeth, make ice, or prepare baby formula. Use baby formula that does not require water to be added.
- If you use bottled water, be sure it came from a safe source. If you do not know that the source was safe, boil or treat it before you use it. Boiling water, when possible, is the preferred way to kill harmful parasites and bacteria. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most such organisms.
- While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed just as much as possible in order to keep food cold for a longer period of time.
- In the refrigerator, pack milk, other dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, eggs and spoilable leftovers into an inexpensive styrofoam cooler surrounded by ice in order to extend their life.
- If the weather is hot, stay as cool as possible and drink lots of fluids to prevent a heat-related illness.
After the Power Outage
- Listen to the television or radio to hear if local authorities report that your water is safe.
- If the power outage has lasted for less than four hours, the food in your refrigerator and freezer should be safe to consume.
- If the power outage has lasted longer than four hours, a half full freezer will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours, especially if you avoid opening the freezer door.
- If some of the food in the freezer started to thaw but the thermometer in the freezer reads 40 degrees F and the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe and may be refrozen. The partial thawing and refreezing might reduce food quality, but the food should remain safe to eat.
- Use a food thermometer to check a food’s temperature right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hopefully this is the most prepared you need to be for an emergency situation. However if a natural disaster or other situation leads to water or fire damage, make sure you seek help from a professional immediately.