Hurricane Dorian: How to protect food in a power outage


Hurricane Dorian: How to protect food in a power outage

Although the most recent forecasts for Hurricane Dorian suggest the storm probably won’t make landfall in South Carolina, our region may still be subject to tropical storm-force winds, rain, flooding and other threats. Accompanying power outages are also possible.

Take steps now to minimize food waste and reduce the risk of foodborne illness in case an outage affects your home. Food can quickly spoil without the electricity needed to operate refrigerators and freezers.

Freezers, if left unopened and full, will typically keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half full). Refrigerators can typically hold perishable foods at a safe temperature for up to four hours

Before losing power

  • Before the storm arrives, consider turning your refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to the storm. These containers are small enough to fit around food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Water expands when it freezes, so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately to help keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Have coolers and ice on hand to keep refrigerator food cold in case the power goes out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer — this igloo effect can help the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep several days’ worth of water and ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

If the power goes out

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers that has been above 40 degrees for two hours or more.
  • If in doubt, throw it out: Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Never taste food to determine if it’s safe.
  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
  • Thawed food that contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked.
  • Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened or damaged.
  • If canned foods have come in contact with contaminated water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of one cup of bleach per five gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a marker and make sure to include the expiration date.
  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, wash your teeth or make baby formula.
  • If you’re without power, don’t try to cook by bringing a grill inside; it can fill your home with poisonous carbon monoxide. It’s also not recommended to cook in your fireplace following a hurricane as there may be storm damage to the chimney that can lead to a fire. Instead, grill outside if you are able.

Click here for a guide that explores which refrigerated and frozen foods may still be safe to eat after two hours at 40 degrees or warmer.

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