How Can I Ensure Water and Food Safety During an Emergency?

By John Rose, September 2, 2016, Family, Hurricane Prep

The best advice for coping with any emergency typically boils down to this: “Be Prepared.” In fact, we’ve written several posts about this topic in the past for a variety of weather situations.

How Can I Ensure Water and Food Safety During an Emergency? | Bounce Energy Blog

However, while assembling your emergency preparedness kit and familiarizing everyone with your family emergency plan are essential steps to becoming prepared, you need to consider other factors that may have a longer lasting effect than the natural disaster itself. Specifically, you need to know what measures you can take to ensure that both your food and water are safe for consumption in an emergency situation (or even just a simple power outage).

Clean Water is Crucial

We often take a safe water supply for granted. But certain emergencies can change that very quickly, specifically flooding. The water supply of your septic system, agricultural land, local sewage plants, and more can be polluted very rapidly. It is absolutely vital that you and your family are not eating, drinking, or bathing in any contaminated water to avoid serious illness.

How Can I Ensure Water and Food Safety During an Emergency? | Bounce Energy Blog

  • Check the water safety where you live by contacting your local water authority. This governmental agency should issue warnings quickly and, if possible, provide you with a method to sanitize your water to make it safe for use.
  • Always have some bottled water stored in your house, especially if you live in a flood plain. Store it high up, away from any possible floodwaters so it is available if you need it.
  • When in doubt, do not consume, bathe, or wash food with possibly contaminated water.
  • If your property uses well water and your well is flooded, you may need to test for quality after the floodwaters have receded to ensure it is still within safe limits for consumption.
  • Be aware that not just the water supply can be contaminated by floodwaters. Any food that comes into contact with dirty water should be thrown away. The exception to this is waterproof goods (such as canned goods), but even they must be thoroughly sanitized before use, as touching the outside of such containers can easily contaminate the food inside.

For additional information on water safety tips and the status of the emergency readiness of your area, ask your local water department!

Check Your Food

The power goes out. You have flashlights and a wind-up radio handy, maybe even a portable battery pack for the “essential” electronics, but what about all the food in your fridge and freezer? How can you keep the food good for as long as possible? How can you determine what’s good, what’s not, and what to do once the power comes back? Here are some quick tips for keeping your food out of the trash:

How Can I Ensure Water and Food Safety During an Emergency? | Bounce Energy Blog

  • Buy appliance thermometers for every fridge and freezer in your house. These take a lot of the guesswork out of food safety in a power outage situation (as will become clear below).
  • Keep the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed when the power goes out. If you open them, you are allowing cool air to escape and warm air to invade. This shortens the time it takes for food to reach unsafe temperatures. If you need to open the doors, it should only be to group items together, as they will stay cold longer this way.
  • If possible, and when appropriate, contact your utility company to learn the estimated time for power to be restored. Don’t do this immediately, as they will need some time to assess the situation.
  • If your power is predicted to not be out for long, just keep everything closed. When your power is restored, check the thermometers. If the freezer temperature is still below 40° F, then you can refreeze in safety! Any food in the fridge should be fine as long as it has not been above 40° F for more than two hours.
  • If you are likely to be without power for some time, then you need to make some quick decisions. Can you relocate the food to a friend with power and space? Do you have time to pack coolers with ice? Can you add ice to the freezer? If you do opt to keep things on ice, make sure you keep an eye on the temperatures to ensure they don’t creep to unsafe levels.
  • In these situations, dry ice or block ice is far more effective to use than bags of ice cubes. Know where you can purchase these BEFORE an emergency happens, and that is one less thing you will have to worry about at the time.

 

How Can I Ensure Water and Food Safety During an Emergency? | Bounce Energy BlogAs we stated earlier, ensuring water and food safety during and after an emergency is all about being prepared, but it’s also about understanding the details of the situation so you can make quick and effective decisions to keep your family and friends safe.

Do you have any tips about food and water safety during a weather emergency? Share with us in the comments!

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