What You Need to Know After a Prolonged Power Outage
If the power is out for less than 2 hours, food in the refrigerator and freezer will be safe to eat. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer. If the power is out for longer than 2 hours, follow these guidelines:
(1) A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for
up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours
(2) For the refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice
(3) Use a digital quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Call the poison center 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222 for questions.
Safe Drinking Water
- Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, food or hands or to make ice or baby formula. If possible, use baby formula that does not need to have water added. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
- Make sure bottled water came from a safe source. If you are unsure, boil or treat it before you use it. Use only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found safe.
- Boiling water is the preferred way to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.
- When boiling water is not practical, you can treat water with chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or unscented household chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite): If you use chlorine tablets or iodine tablets, follow the directions that come with the tablets. If you use household chlorine bleach, add 1/8 teaspoon (~0.75 mL) of bleach per gallon of water if the water is clear. For cloudy water, add 1/4 teaspoon (~1.50 mL) of bleach per gallon. Mix the solution thoroughly and let it stand for about 30 minutes before using it.
Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they are prolonged. Perishable foods should not be held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned, but how do you save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer times? Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables.
What Do I Need?
- One or more coolers. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers can do an excellent job as well.
- Ice. Surrounding your food with ice in a cooler will ensure that it will stay cold.
- Shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods and powdered or boxed milk. These can be eaten cold or heated on the grill.
- A digital quick-response thermometer. A digital thermometer should be a necessity in your kitchen anyway. With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food for doneness and safety.
What to Do…
Do not open the refrigerator or freezer. Tell your little ones not to open the door. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for at least a couple of hours. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours. (See chart for more details.)
If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack refrigerated milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, gravy, stuffing and left-overs into your cooler surrounded by ice. (See chart for more details.)
If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.