Keep food safe
Before, during and after a power outage
We do all we can to keep your power flowing. When an extended outage does occur, it’s important to know how to keep your food safe – both to avoid food loss and reduce the risk of illness.
- Set the thermostat in your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at its coldest setting.
- Place a single ice cube in a plastic, zip-top bag in your freezer. If your freezer thaws and re-freezes, you’ll know, because the ice in the bag will no longer be in a cube.
- A full freezer stays colder longer. Transfer meat, poultry and fish – which spoil quickly – from your refrigerator to your freezer to fill it up. If you can, place them on a tray in the freezer. That way, if they begin thawing, their juices won’t drip on other foods.
- If your freezer isn’t full, place items close together to help food stay cold longer. You can also freeze water in zip-top plastic bags in your freezer to fill it up and help it hold its temperature.
- Stock up on ready-to-eat foods that don't require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or cooked on an outdoor grill.
- Coolers can keep food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours. Have a couple on hand you can stock with purchased ice if necessary.
- If your power goes out, check and note the time the outage started.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. An unopened refrigerator will keep food safely cold for approximately four hours. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours if the door remains closed or 24 hours if it’s half full.
- If the outage is extended, purchase ice to keep your refrigerator, freezer or coolers as cold as possible.
- Consider having a barbecue to save some of the food. Particularly during the summer months, cooking outside is a great way to keep the temperature inside your house cooler.
- During the winter months, resist the temptation to place unprotected food outdoors in ice or snow. Wild animals may come looking for a meal. If the sun comes out, it may warm your food to an unsafe temperature. Instead, consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then, put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer or coolers.
- Check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. Evaluate each food item separately. Discard any perishable food, such as meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, that has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to the touch.
- Check for ice crystals in frozen food. Food in your freezer that partially thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If you're not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.
- Discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
- Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe. When in doubt, throw it out.
Although we restore power as safely and quickly as possible after severe weather, extensive damage can take time to repair. Unfortunately, our company doesn’t reimburse customers for equipment damaged or food lost during outages caused by storms. The best plan for customers is to be prepared. Customers can also contact their renters or homeowners insurance carrier to determine if their policies cover food loss.
Is a storm coming your way? Download our handy, quick food safety list.
You can learn more from the USDA and FDA about food safety during power outages online. You can also download A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety for more information.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Call 1-800-9OUTAGE (1-800-968-8243) to report downed power lines