Storm Ready: Preserving Food and Medicine During Outages

Power outages can put many items in your refrigerator and freezer at risk of spoilage including: meat, dairy, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables and medicine.

Here are some helpful tips to preserve perishable items as long as possible when the power goes out:

  1. Limit opening doors. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, if your refrigerator and freezer doors stay closed and the units are properly sealed (no air leaks), your food can hold its temperature during an outage for:
    • 48 hours in a full freezer
    • 24 hours in a half-full freezer
    • 4 hours in a refrigerator

How to Test Your Fridge and Freezer Seal Before an Outage: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can check the seal of your fridge or freezer by closing the door on a dollar bill then gently pulling on it. There should be a little resistance to prevent the bill from sliding out completely. If you don’t feel resistance, you’ve found a weak spot in the seal. Repeat this dollar bill test around all parts of the seal. At any point if a part does not pass the test, consult an expert to replace the seal or consider replacing the unit completely. Learn how you can recycle your old appliances for cash and schedule a free pick-up.

  1. Gain access to a generator. Whether you choose to purchase a new generator or borrow one from a neighbor/loved one, the device could extend the life of your perishable items during an outage. The generating capacity you need and how long it could power your appliances depends on the starting wattage and running wattage of your fridge and freezer. Many need more power to start up (maximum output watts) and then require less power to run continually (rated watts).

Safety Tip: Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning by never running a generator in an enclosed space, including your garage and basement. To be safe, keep all generators at least 25 feet away from your home and install a carbon monoxide alarm on every floor of your house, especially near any room where people sleep.Learn more about how to keep safe from carbon monoxide poisoning by visiting ConsumersEnergy.com/cosafety.

  1. Leverage the power of dry ice. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia, a 50 pound block of dry ice can preserve perishable items in an 18 cubic foot freezer for up to two days. To get started:
  • Make sure your space is properly ventilated
  • Wrap all frozen food to prevent potential freezer burn
  • Place heavy cardboard on top of perishable items in each compartment of your freezer
  • Put the dry ice on top of the cardboard and step back to let vapors escape (breathing in vapors can be harmful to your health)
  • Close the door and limit yourself/others from opening it

For refrigerators, a 10 pound block of dry ice is sufficient to preserve food for up to two days. Follow the same steps as above.

Safety Tip: Be extremely careful when handling dry ice as it can cause frostbite, severe burns and blisters if protective gloves are not used. Do not attempt to try to cut or chip it yourself. When transporting the dry ice in your vehicle, make sure there is proper ventilation. As dry ice melts, it releases carbon dioxide gas and can cause headaches, breathing difficulties, suffocation and unconsciousness.

  1. Enlist the help of a neighbor or nearby store. A neighbor or store nearby may have power when you are without because they are on a different part of the energy grid. In emergency storage situations, such as preserving medication and breast milk, request a neighbor or nearby store to temporarily store your items.

Safety Tip: Make sure your items are properly sealed and labeled with your full name and phone number.

At all times, follow the mantra “when in doubt, throw it out” if you are unsure of whether your perishable items are still safe to consume. For more outage tips, visit ConsumersEnergy.com/outage.

 

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