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Recently we were participating in a HAM radio net and two of the men reported having a power outage a few days earlier. One commented that they lost their milk and other refrigerated items and the other said he just took his out and buried them in the snow until the power was restored. Sometimes we forget the most logical solutions which is one reason we are compiling binders.

This week we are concentrating on food safety.

Prepare Now To:

  • Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F or 4ºC.
  • Keep frozen food at or below 0 °F or -17ºC.
  • Never keep these foods stored on the door of the refrigerator or freezer.

Purchase a refrigerator/freezer thermometer and keep it in the freezer. If your freezer goes out for any reason and is off for some time, you can determine how warm the air in the freezer has become. Knowing the highest temperature that food has reached is the most important factor to determine whether or not the thawed food in your freezer is safe. A freezer at 40 degrees F is the same as having the food refrigerated, so it may still be safe to consume. Having a freezer thermometer also gives you more control over the quality of your frozen food now. Keep the freezer temperature at 0 degrees F or below.

Plug your freezer into a dedicated outlet that is not connected to a circuit protected by a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) device. GFIs are easily tripped by power surges, shutting off power to your freezer. Also, if a circuit becomes overloaded and the breaker clicks off you may not know until you try to use another appliance.

If you have been warned of an upcoming event that may lead to an extended power outage, snow storm, hurricane approaching, tornado warning, etc. reduce the freezer temperature to -10 or -20 degrees. The colder the food, the more time it takes to thaw.

If you plan to purchase a new freezer, investigate models that have an alarm. The alarm will sound a warning of a problem even if power is available in other parts of the home.

Make it a habit to keep the freezer door locked. This is a great safety precaution to protect children, but also a way to avoid accidentally leaving the door ajar.

Determine a local source for dry ice for if and when your freezer stops due to an outage or freezer failure.

Make it a practice to fill plastic water bottles or plastic food storage containers with water and freeze them to keep your freezer as full as possible at all times. It’s only water so if you need to dump it to make room as you purchase food for the freezer, it’s not a big deal. If your power should be out for a long period this water will add precious hydration for your family.

Don’t forget the refrigerator. When possible add dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased but remember everyone will be looking for ice so if you know an event is threatening purchase ice ahead.

Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours—have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When your freezer is not full, keep items close together—this helps the food stay cold longer. If you have snow outside fill the cooler with snow before storing cold and frozen items.

If food is safe to eat, it is safe to refreeze. If ice crystals remain in foods, it’s usually safe to refreeze them although there will be changes in the texture, flavor and color, and the nutritional value may be lower.

Controlling the Length of Time Food Will Remain Safe

As soon as your freezer goes off, determine how long the problem will last. If it is a power failure, ask the power company how long the power will be off. If it is a mechanical failure, check the manual that came with your freezer to see if you can solve the problem before calling a repair person. If power fails at night purchase dry ice and do not open the door again until a repair person is there or you have a new appliance delivered.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature. Place a DO NOT OPEN sign on the refrigerator and freezer doors to remind yourself and others to leave them closed. If you do need to get food out prepare a list before opening the door, grab your items and close the door quickly.

Food in a full freezer will stay frozen about two days. Food in a freezer that is only half full may stay frozen only one day. As was mentioned before, keeping containers of ice in a partially filled freezer helps keep foods frozen longer. Also, while the freezer is operating, less energy is required to keep the ice frozen than is needed to keep empty space at 0 degrees, thus having a full freezer saves money every day.

A freezer full of meat will not warm up as quickly as a freezer full of baked food.

The colder the food and the air surrounding it, the longer food will remain frozen and safe.