Most natural disasters cause an interruption of our utilities, when a storm is moving in I begin to gather flashlights and batteries in anticipation of the situation to deteriorate. With the loss of utilities we also lose our refrigerators, cooking abilities, water supply and lighting. In the event of an evacuation situation when we are allowed to return to our homes there are many issues to deal with. Depending on the damage that our dwellings sustain that will also determine the ground rules for returning, if your house is “red tagged” there are major repairs to be made before re-entry. But what if you are allowed to return while the utilities are off, looking as if this situation will last for days or even maybe weeks. The first tasks we must take on is securing the food we have in the Pantry, refrigerator and home freezer. Water will have to be dealt with as well.
There are foods that have a natural long shelf life, honey, oatmeal, cereals and dehydrated foods are among them. There are also foods that will store as long as they are kept in 40 degree F temperatures. There are some assumptions we should make.
1) In the event of a flood your water is contaminated, only drink water from a sealed known source such as the cases of water available you have purchased. If you have a water well it must be assumed your water is “non-potable” tainted, have your well checked by a lab before you use it. Water can be used in your freezer, freeze containers of water, I have 1 gallon containers that are 2″ thick and lay on the bottom of the shelf of the freezer. Fill the containers with tap water, place them in your freezer and allowed to freeze, leave them in the freezer. In an emergency situation with the utilities off the frozen water ice will help keep your frozen food safe until the ice melts and the temperature climbs thawing out the food, after it thaws do not use the food. After the water melts, it can be used for drinking or sanitation purposes. Set the water up before an event occurs.
2) Take a survey of the food you have stored, make two piles, “keep” and “toss in the trash.”
In the trash pile place any food that has come in contact with flood water or fires. Seafood raw or cooked, processed meats and poultry as well as “fresh” (Salmonella moves in quickly), Pies made of dairy products such as custard, chiffon or cheese, also milk, cream, yogurt and soft cheese. Egg substitutes are unsafe when left unrefrigerated. Processed prepared meals, pizza’s, hot dogs, or casseroles, stews and soups. Mayonnaise, tartar sauce or creamy dressings, cookie dough and cream filled pastries will not be safe as well.
*In the keep pile should be rice, beans, dehydrated fruit, honey, oatmeal, and cereals normally kept in the pantry in sealed packages or food preservation containers. If any of the packages have come in contact with fire or flood water do not use them, they will be fine in un-corrupted containers.
Keep a thermometer in your freezer, keep the doors closed unless the freezer needs to be opened to retrieve food or water. The ice packs will stay frozen for at least a few days, it will act like a portable ice chest.
If you have access to ice either from your freezer or commercially purchased, some may be placed in your refrigerator to help keep it cool. Keep a thermostat in the fridge as well, monitor the conditions inside, mold can set in quickly. Your refrigerator will warm quicker than your freezer, keep a close watch on food items, check each before use. Bread, rolls and muffins will stay unmolested longer when kept cool, however will mold rapidly in a moist, warm environment.
3) Your food supply may be depleted in a day or two, FEMA recommends we all have a supply to see us through the first 72 hours. Water, dehydrated food packets, a heat supply for cooking and purifying water, a flashlight and radio should all be available during an emergency event.
In summary: Dried foods in air and water tight containers is the safest of stored food, dehydrated foods have a long shelf life and are available bulk, prepackaged or made at home. Keep your kits clean in a secure spot which are convenient to access in the case of evacuation and you will survive just fine for days or a week or two.
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