Food and water safety tips for when the power goes out

Feb 6, 2015 11:47 AM by News Staff

As gusty winds roll through the area and residents gear up for a storm expected to produce widespread rain, public health officials are warning people of several food and water safety measures they can take in the event of a power outage.


Before the Loss of Power - There are simple steps that can be taken to minimize product loss and foodborne illness. Freezing containers of water ahead of time can help keep food cold. Additionally, keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to make sure temperatures stay at 0° F or below in the freezer and 40° F or below in the refrigerator. Potentially hazardous foods are moist, perishable foods in and on which bacteria can grow most easily during the time when the food is held in the temperature danger zone (41°F to 135°F).

In the Event of a Power Outage - Note the time at which the power outage began. Immediately discard foods that are in the process of being cooked, but have not yet reached the final temperature. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible; the refrigerator will keep food safe for about 4 hours if unopened and the freezer will hold temperatures for about 48 hours. After 4 hours, discard perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheese, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items. Finally, grouping packages of cold food together can reduce heat gain. In the event that you have very hot foods at the onset of a power outage, do not place hot foods in the refrigerator or freezer. Use an ice bath to rapidly cool small batches of hot food.

Once Power Has Been Restored - Identify any potentially hazardous foods that may have been improperly stored during the power outage. Check the internal food temperature.


Excessive rainfall can cause residential wells to flood drawing environmental contaminants into the water system and resulting in the presence of total and fecal coliform bacteria. If the wellhead is surrounded by pooling water, the chances are good the well has flooded. The BCPHD recommends that homeowners with wells suspected of having been flooded should take one or more of the following precautions:

Use only bottled water for drinking and cooking
Boil tap water for one full minute before consumption

Use purification tablets, following manufacturer's instructions indicated on the packaging.

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