Prepare for Power Outages

Along with May flowers, spring (and summer) may bring storms strong enough to knock out your electricity. Mechanical failures and human error could cause a loss of power any time of year. However it happens, here are a few rules to follow so that you are prepared when the power goes out:

Rule #1: Have blankets available. If the power goes out, keep the freezer door closed. Wrap the freezer/refrigerator in blankets, making sure they do not touch the compressor. Food will typically stay frozen for about two days.

Rule #2: Know your equipment. Try to figure out what happened and restore power as soon as possible. This may mean replacing a fuse, securing a plug back into a working outlet…or finding out from your power company when to expect electricity to return.


Rule #3: Know your neighbors. Try to locate a working freezer/refrigerated and move items there. Sometimes a friendly neighbor can offer the power you are missing.

Rule #4: Find out where you can purchase dry ice and/or bags of regular ice. If inclement weather such as severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, or tornados are predicted to head your way but you still have enough time to safely get to out of the house, then go out and bring back dry ice or extra bags of regular ice cubes.  If you expect the power to be out for more than 2 to 4 hours, then re-pack refrigerated items into coolers with ice or dry ice. To help you estimate how much dry ice is needed, consider that a 50-pound block is enough for a full twenty cubic foot freezer for 2 to 3 days. Take caution with dry ice; handle with gloves and do not attempt to break it into smaller pieces yourself.  Do not inhale the fumes (gas) given off.

Rule #5: Put an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and one in your freezer now.
They cost less than $5 each at most stores.  The recommended storage temperature for perishable fresh foods (nonfrozen) is 40 degrees F. If the refrigerator or freezer temperature is above 40 degrees F, and it could have been for more than 2 hours, play it safe and do not eat perishable or completely thawed foods. Many frozen foods can be saved if they still have ice crystals in them.  See What to Do if the Freezer Stops for more details.

Rule #6: Get a food thermometer and keep it calibrated. Once power is back, check the internal temperature of your perishable foods before eating. If food has been 40 degrees F or higher for more than 2 hours, then discard it.

Kitchen thermometer

More information about how to calibrate your thermometer is available from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. More information about storing food and water for emergency preparedness is available from the University of Georgia.

Information in this entry comes from What to do if the Freezer Stops and Preparing for Power Outages.