So what do you do?
Storms across the country are knocking out power lines for days. When it’s 95 degrees outside, you definitely don’t want to be without electricity and air conditioning. There are a few safety concerns as well. In the sweltering heat, how do you keep your refrigerator full of food from going bad? How do you keep cool? What are the best ways to stay safe?
Extended power outages can be a little bit scary. Read on to learn what steps you should take to keep your family safe if your electricity gets cut off for anywhere from a few hours, to a few days.
Check your fuse box. The very first thing you should do is make sure that the power outage isn’t limited to your own home. If you determine that a fuse or circuit breaker needs replacing, turn off and unplug all large appliances before you replace them. You can also check with your neighbors to see if they’re without power. You’ll want to call your electrical company to report the power outage.
Avoid power surges. Sometimes, when electricity is restored, the varying levels of electricity can damage your appliances. The best way to avoid this is to unplug all computers and major appliances, except for your refrigerator and freezer. Wait at least 15 minutes once power is restored to plug your appliances back in.
Keep your perishable food and beverages cold. It’s essential to keep your freezer and refrigerator doors closed tight to prevent cold air from escaping. As a general rule, you can expect that your food will stay good in a closed, fully-loaded refrigerator for about 6 hours. For a full freezer, your food will stay good for approximately 2 days.
It’s important not to rely on taste or odor to determine if your food has stayed good. Here are some tips from the Washington Post that can help you keep your food from spoiling, and determine whether to save it, or toss it.
- Place dry ice, a block of ice, or frozen gel packs in a well-insulated cooler. Transferring food from your refrigerator to a cooler can help keep it from spoiling.
- Many foods will still be safe for consumption if they still have ice crystals, or remain below 40 degrees. Some of these foods include meats such as beef, veal, lamb, pork, or ground meat, soups, hard cheeses, juices, packaged waffles, and frozen meals.
- You should throw away any dairy items, poultry, meat, seafood, greens, eggs and fresh pasta that have been held at 40 degrees or higher for more than 2 hours.
- Throw away condiments such as mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish and other spreads that have been at 50 degrees or higher for more than 8 hours.
- There’s no need to throw away peanut butter, jelly, mustard, ketchup, vinegar-based dressings, fruit, hard cheeses, and certain other items, even if they had been refrigerated.
- Don’t taste food to determine its safety, and don’t rely on odor or appearance. Use a food thermometer. You can call the following numbers if you need more information or have safety questions.
- USDA Meat and Poultry (800) 535-4555
- FDA Seafood (800) FDA-4010
- FDA’s Food Safety Information (888) 723-3366
Find safe sources of drinking water. When the power’s out, it may not be safe to rely on tap water. Safe water for drinking includes water that’s been bottled, boiled or treated. Don’t use contaminated water for washing dishes, brushing teeth, preparing food, washing hands, making ice, or preparing baby formula. The CDC website has some great techniques for disinfecting water in an emergency.
Stay aware of the risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious heat illness that happens when your body temperature rises too rapidly. To prevent heat stroke, drink a glass of fluid every 15-20 minutes, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, and try to work only in the cooler hours of the day. If you suspect someone could be suffering from heat stroke (warning signs include red, hot, and dry skin, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and extremely high body temperature) you should call for medical attention and immerse the person with cool water.
Be prepared. There’s no better way to prevent disaster than emergency preparedness. You and your family should make an emergency plan as well as a disaster supply kit. Your kit should have enough water, non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights, first-aid supplies, and medications for at least three days. Also, bear in mind that it’s better to rely on battery-powered devices such as flashlights and lanterns than candles to prevent fires.
With summer storms in full swing, it’s very possible that you could be hit by a power outage. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to keep everyone safe, no sweat!